Caps Get Point in Shootout loss to Devils
The Washington Capitals came into Saturday night’s contest with the New Jersey Devils having won five straight games despite being outshot in four of those games (the only game they outshot the opposition was Wednesday’s 5-1 beat down of Carolina in Raleigh). Well the Caps finally played with fire one too many times and were outshot, 33-30, and outplayed in a 6-5 shootout loss at the Prudential Center. This game marked the first time in 15 games that the Caps lost a game despite getting a goal from Alexander Ovechkin, who had two on the night including the game tying goal with just one second left in the contest. Ovechkin had a game a high 12 shots and he, his linemates, and goalie Jose Theodore tried to carry this team to a win despite poor performances from several other Caps.
Forward Patrick Elias was all over the ice for the Devils on Saturday night notching two goals and an assist. Brian Gionta had what looked to be the game winner with just over eight minutes left until some late game Great #8 heroics. Gionta had a wide open net as the Caps were dog tired on the long shift and were left standing still while #14 for the Devils buzzed the slot for a tap in.
As I mentioned above the positives on the night for Washington were the play of their top line of Ovechkin (2 goals, 1 assist), Nicklas Backstrom (1 goal, 4 assists), and Viktor Kozlov (1 goal, 1 assist) as well as several fine saves by Jose Theodore, who was hung out to dry most of the night. The only goal he would probably like to have back would be the fourth goal by Elias that he got a piece of on a three on two Devils break. It is not often you say a goalie plays well when giving up five goals but tonight Theodore prevented Washington from giving up double digit goals because New Jersey certainly had tons of quality scoring chances. Ovechkin, Backstrom, and Kozlov were each plus three on the evening.
With Alexander Semin missing the game with an undisclosed injury, the only other Cap that I could say that played okay was forward Brooks Laich. Thus with all other forwards playing terribly Caps Coach Bruce Boudreau went with only #8, #19, #25, and #21 at forward in the overtime. Kozlov played his best game of the season, in my opinion, despite not delivering in the shootout (Ovechkin and Boyd Gordon also missed while Zach Parise scored for the Devils on the first shot of the shootout on a great move).
The rest of the Caps were pretty much missing in action and Michael Nylander, who is making $5.5M this year, was downright horrible (minus two) and the Devils took advantage of him in the Caps zone several times. Captain Chris Clark was brutal as well and between he and Nylander they are tying up valuable salary cap room (roughly $7.5M) while putting out sub par performances night after night something I’m sure GM George McPhee and Boudreau are not happy about. In addition, the Caps defense was just awful standing around in their own end and letting New Jersey move to the front of the net at will. Boudreau will need to clean up this loose defensive posture quickly or else teams like Anaheim and San Jose will run them out of the rink next week on the left coast.
This game started very poorly for Washington and just 69 seconds into the game David Clarkson was all alone in front of Caps goalie Jose Theodore and he blasted it by #60 for a 1-0 Devils lead. For the next five minutes New Jersey continued to swarm what appeared to be a sleep walking Caps team and if it wasn’t for Theodore this game would have been three or four to nothing at that point. Tomas Fleischmann then scored at 6:59 of the period to tie the game and turn the tide for Washington for the rest of the first period. With 51 seconds left in the period the Great #8 beautifully deflected a Tyler Sloan point shot past Devils goalie Scott Clemmensen to give the Caps a 2-l lead that they would carry into the locker room.
The second period started disastrously for Washington as Jamie Langenbrunner buried a goal just 41 seconds in after several Caps defensive zone giveaways and a seemingly missed hooking call by referees Bill McCreary and Steve Rooney (who I thought were almost as brutal as the Caps defense most of the night). Then on a power play a couple of minutes later Elias scored while being hooked by Gordon, which led to another New Jersey power play. Once again the Devils bombed the Caps net for several minutes only to be thwarted by Theodore. The Caps did manage to tie the game at three on a Kozlov goal on nice play from the face-off circle late in the second period.
With the shootout loss the Caps fall to 10-4-3 on the season but now lead the Southeast Division by five points over second place Carolina. Both teams have played 17 games. As I alluded to above, the Caps now go out west for three games in Anaheim, Los Angeles, and San Jose before finishing this five game road trip in Minnesota on Monday, November 24th.
Other Notes: Ovechkin now has goals in four straight games and 10 points (5G, 5A) during that stretch. Backstrom has been on fire as well with 12 points (2G, 10A) in his last five games. Ovechkin and Semin are tied for the NHL lead in plus/minus at +17. Forward Sergei Fedorov missed his fifth straight game and defensemen Shaone Morrisonn missed his third straight contest both due to injuries. Brent Johnson backed up Theodore tonight as he did on Friday.
My personal note to Pierre LeBrun, who did a piece on Semin and Ovechkin in his ESPN blog the other day and criticized Ovechkin for defending his teammate Semin: Blaming the media is not an old, tired game. In my mind it can be justified in some cases and since LeBrun was not there when Semin did his now famous Sydney Crosby interview he should shut his stinking trap and not comment on it or on what Ovechkin says in relation to that incident. The demise of journalism in this country is appalling (see the recent coverage of the Presidential election where just this week MSNBC and The Washington Post both have apologized for their unfair election coverage) and the last thing I want to see is irresponsible coverage carrying over into the sports world. The media has a lot of power, too much in some cases if you ask me, so they owe it to the American people to present a non-biased point of view and stop seeking “sensationalized” stories designed to give the reporter or their media outlet notoriety at the expense of someone else. It is time for some media integrity in this country. I wasn’t there either when Semin did his interview but it is quite possible that the Yahoo reporter who broke the story took advantage of Semin’s lack of command of the English language and then used that to turn the interview into a “Semin disses Crosby” piece. As everyone knows now the quotes spread quickly which ended up causing several negative comments by the hockey media against Semin.