After three high tempo, exciting contests to open the season the Washington Capitals delivered a dud in game four of this young 2009-10 season losing, 4-3, to the New York Rangers at the Verizon Center. This was not a pleasing game to watch like the other three contests were and part of that is the style of John Tortorella’s hard working New York squad.
As the game went on you could see a dramatic drop in the energy level of the Caps and as a result the Rangers took advantage of the declining effort and some poor goaltending by Jose Theodore in the third period. The loss drops the Caps to 2-1-1 on the season and Caps Coach Bruce Boudreau has a lot to pick at after this one, and rightly so.
Believe it or not the Caps actually led this game, 3-2, with just over 12 minutes to go but just 18 seconds after Washington’s ONLY good power play of the night that resulted in Nicklas Backstrom’s goal (second of the game), Washington’s three forwards on the ice (David Steckel, Chris Clark, and Quintin Laing) got caught close together and too far up in the neutral zone [apparently the puck hit the linesman]. That allowed the Rangers to come back 4 on 2 on defensemen Tom Poti and Jeff Schultz and when Poti didn’t challenge Marian Gaborik (2 goals) he fired it on Theodore and #60 whiffed on the shot. Suddenly you could feel the momentum swinging to the Rangers down the stretch and they took advantage of it.
Less than three minutes later Gaborik struck again with a shot from the slot and again Theodore couldn’t handle it. That makes two games in a row where the #60 has blown a lead in the third period. It doesn’t matter how many great saves you make earlier in the game, if you can’t deliver when your team gets a lead in the final period then you are not a money goalie, and right now I don’t have any confidence in #60, so I don’t know how the players or coaches can either.
Despite the poor third period goaltending, the Caps still should have won easily had they done ANYTHING on the power play in the first two periods. Washington was 0 for 7 after 40 minutes, including two 5 on 3 advantages. The biggest problem was a lack of movement and it was primarily caused by Mike Green and Alexander Ovechkin (held pointless) passing the puck back and forth instead of shooting the biscuit or sending it down low. Alexander Semin also got into a bad habit of overhandling the puck on the sidewall. The Rangers were keeping their two forwards up high on their penalty kill and it wasn’t until the 3rd period that assistant coach Dean Evason and the players adjusted by creating more movement and sending the puck low where they were able to score on an overload. In addition, the Caps just need to shoot the puck more on the power play and go to the net for rebounds, something one would think they would do more of with Mike Knuble on the team now.
Here are some other news and notes on the game:
– The Caps have now allowed 13 goals in their last 7 periods of hockey. The goaltending has been shaky and as Boudreau mentioned after the game, the overall team defense has not been good. Look for Tyler Sloan, who played at forward on Thursday, to get a regular shift on defense on Saturday in Detroit. I’m not sure what is up with Poti, but that is two bad games from him in a row.
– As mentioned above, Ovechkin had 0 points but had 9 shots and also 9 missed ones but on perhaps his best scoring opportunity of the night in the first period the Great #8, standing all alone in the slot, chose to try and pass to Clark instead of shooting the puck. Ovechkin earned his -1 for the evening when he lazily went after Semin’s cross ice pass in the second period that Ryan Callahan took the other way for a breakaway beating Theodore five hole on the backhand.
– Clark drew two penalties in the game. He looks better this season but I was surpised to see that he was the 6th player on the ice at the end of the game.
– Defenseman Brian Pothier was back in the lineup on Thursday after sitting in Philadelphia on Tuesday and it was his beautiful give and go with Semin that resulted in #28’s game opening goal.
– I know it has only been four games but every Caps goal has come from a player on the top two lines (Ovechkin, Semin, Backstrom, Knuble, Laich, and Brendan Morrison). The third and fourth lines need to tally every now and then and it seems that if Green doesn’t score none of the other defensemen will light the lamp either. Perhaps the return of forwards Eric Fehr and hopefully soon after Tomas Fleischmann’s debut will get another line going for Boudreau’s club?
– The Caps won the face-off battle 36-25 but were outshot 29-28. Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist gave the Caps a gift goal on Backstrom’s neutral zone soft shot that tied the game at two but Washington could not turn that miscue into a win.
– Next up for the Caps are the Red Wings in Detroit on Saturday night.