The Washington Capitals snatched defeat from the jaws of victory tonight, losing 5-4 in OT to the Columbus Blue Jackets and they have noone to blame but themselves. But first, to the BIG STORY of the night, the Alexander Ovechkin injury. The Great #8 left in the 2nd period after a collision with Raffi Torres of Columbus. Ovechkin got up, shook his wrist, and then skated off never to return. He would only play 7:43 on the evening. Here is the latest info from the Caps outstanding Media Relations department:
Alex Ovechkin suffered an upper-body injury in the 2nd period and is day-to-day. The Capitals have a day off tomorrow so the soonest we will have an update on his status is Tuesday.
So all hockey fans will have to hold their collective breath until Tuesday and hope that this injury is mild and not a fracture or something bad.
Now back to the game, one that the Caps should have definitely won if not for some terrible penalties and bad defense. Mike Knuble took two careless slashing penalties that resulted in Blue Jackets goals (although one came right after his penalty expired) and Brian Pothier interferred with Jakub Voracek in OT to set the stage for the game winner. All of these infractions were careless and poor plays and that enraged Caps Coach Bruce Boudreau.
“Yeah, well when you take a stupid penalty, that’s what happens when you take stupid penalties. Selfish penalties, they cost you all the time. You take a team penalty and work your [butt] off like they did then usually you kill them off all the time, but when you take a selfish penalty it doesn’t end real good,” said a frustrated Boudreau.
“In the last two minutes, I can’t take a penalty on a back check when the guy is out of my reach. It’s kind of a brain cramp there. It’s a dumb play at the wrong time, but we played hard in the third. It was a good hockey game. We have to be happy with the way we played the third. An error by me late to put the team behind. That’s what’s frustrating because it’s something I can control,” said Knuble, who at least manned up to his mistakes.
The bad thing is that Washington had a very good third period (scored three goals) until the end, without Ovechkin, and nearly showed they could win despite losing their superstar. Boudreau thought that it would have been a big statement for his club but the penalties and poor defensive play, that we’ll get to in a minute, cost the Caps.
“That’s what happens when you over work the other team; you know it’s pretty simple logic. I have seen it in a lot of games before. In regulation we’ve lost 2 out of 14, so I have seen it a lot. But it was rallying around Ovi [Alex Ovechkin] getting hurt. In the third period, we out worked them and we probably deserved a little bit better fate, but we shoot ourselves in the foot…a lot in this case,” finished Boudreau.
“You have a player like that in your lineup. It’s easy to try and look to him all the time at critical times and he’s gonna go down, it’s a chance for other guys to step up and try and pull their weight. You see teams if you lose your best player whether it’s one game or multiple games, you see teams feel sorry for themselves and that’s the last thing that we need to do… The guys responded and got a little angry with the game and played hard,” added #22 about how the team handled losing Ovechkin.
The penalties were lazy and bad, for sure, but Washington’s defensive play is becoming more and more of a concern. On the third Blue Jackets goal Shaone Morrisonn was badly beaten by Torres behind his own net. #26 has had a very poor past three games going -4 overall against Atlanta, the Islanders, and Columbus. Then on the 4th and 5th goals Poti, who did do a good job on the Caps power play with Ovechkin out, did not do well in front of his own net. On the game tying goal, with just 22 seconds left, he cannot let that puck get to Torres or he has to take #14’s stick away at the side of the net instead of slashing at Kristian Huselius’ stick when Laich had #20 pretty much covered. Poti and Jeff Schultz combined did not do a good job of taking away the lane to the net on that play and allowed Derrick Brassard to thread the needle on the pass. On the 5th goal, and I have said this before about #3 in last year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs, he has to stay on his feet and going to the ice made it all too easy for Rick Nash (best player on the ice on Sunday) to set up R.J. Umberger for the winner. Bad things typically happen when you leave your skates, it is like leaving your feet in basketball too soon to block a shot, you give away your position and advantage, yet Poti does this far too often.
Jose Theodore once again lost a game in OT and he is 3-2-4 this season (while Semyon Varlamov is 5-0). Theo has played very well a good portion of the time but, as Hockey Night in Canada Radio’s Kelly Hrudey will tell you, it is all about making the save when you have to to get your team a win. So far Varlamov is doing a better job at that despite the better save percentage numbers for Theodore. Perhaps Boudreau will go back to rotating his goalies for awhile because Varly’s performance in Atlanta on Thursday and Theodore’s not so great weekend seems to warrant that #40 should at least get half of the upcoming starts?
On the positive side of things, the Caps finally found a way to get pucks past Columbus goalie Steve Mason (who had shut them out for 72 straight minutes dating back to last year) and it wasn’t rocket science, it was going to the front of the net and creating havoc. Brooks Laich had a big third period with two goals and Quintin Laing, back from the swine flu, scored a nice one in front when Dave Steckel crashed the net to get a Matt Bradley rebound and made a nice pass to #53. That Laing goal should have been the game winner, if not for the penalties.
“For the moment, yeah, but we gave it right to them. They tied it up late. It’s unfortunate. It’s disappointing. I would have liked to have got that one to get the lead that late and then hold onto it. It was just a relief to get back out there playing. I didn’t know how I was going to feel, but once the game started the adrenaline kind of helps out so you feel into it. It was nice to get one especially with Ovie [Alex Ovechkin] out,” said Laing about his first goal of the season in his first game since returning from the swine flu.
The Caps still pick up a point and have 20 in 14 games (8-2-4). They are off until Wednesday when they take on the Devils on Wednesday then they have a home and home with the Florida Panthers on Friday and Saturday night.
Below is my live blog from tonight’s game containing some commentary as the game unfolded:
5:33 pm – Apparently we are over the “Status Limit” on Twitter so I am switching to this blog to bring you updates. Caps are up 1-0 after a pretty passing play from Alexander Semin to Tomas Fleischmann that was finished off by Nicklas Backstrom, who had an empty net with Blue Jackets goalie Steve Mason drawn out of position. This came 10 seconds after a Caps power play expired which was given to the Caps after Alexander Ovechkin’s stick was slashed and Semin almost shot the puck in his own net on the delayed call. Jose Theodore has been GREAT in net so far making several numerous quality saves as Washington has been loose in their own end.
5:37: Columbus should have been penalized there as Kristian Huselius trips Milan Jurcina. Jurcina heads to dressing room as it looks like he hurt his ankle.
5:39: By the way, Mason’s shutout streak against the Caps ended at 72 minutes and 13 seconds. Caps going on power play now.
5:42: Aggressive PK unit of Columbus leads to a 2 on 1 break with Ovechkin backchecking and the Great #8 takes Antoine Vermette down for a penalty.
5:45: Jurcina back on ice, that is good news for the Caps!
5:51: End of 1st Period, Caps 1, Columbus 0. Analysis: Theodore was the man in this first period stopping several quality shots and even more importantly, not giving up the big rebound. The Washington power play was Jeckyl and Hyde in that first period: they moved the puck well at times but they also gave up TOO many shorthanded opportunities. Former #1 overall NHL draft pick Rick Nash (2002 ) is a very good player and is really dangerous killing penalties. Ovechkin needs to be more careful with the puck at the point. Shots were 13-11 in favor of Washington but the Blue Jackets had far too many scoring opportunities. Clamping down on the scoring chances against will likely be Caps Coach Bruce Boudreau’s between period message to his troops.
5:55: Semin, despite some early shifts where he floated, made a big play on the Backstrom goal. I am looking for him to step up and really help the Caps win today. After all he does want a new contract (restricted free agent after this sesaon) so he needs to contribute today after pretty much taking Thursday and Friday off.
6:03 Play underway again at Verizon Center. Dave Steckel, Brooks Laich, and Matt Bradley is Boudreau’s opening line for 2nd period. Today is the first time they have been back together since last year’s Stanley Cup playoffs. They were very effective then but with Fleischmann out for the first 11 games Laich had to play on the top two lines.
6:05 Big scrum as a dirty Jason Chimera shoves Ovechkin by the Blue Jackets bench. That was uncalled for but the Caps don’t have an enforcer who can retaliate. The Caps best comeback would be to score on this power play they just received.
6:09 So much for making the thugs pay, Caps PP gives up a shorthanded chance to Nash once again (Theodore makes save) then it fails to score. Best chance was a Semin slot blast that Fleischmann just missed slamming home on the rebound.
6:12 Nash, who has been the BEST player in this game, takes the puck from Chris Clark at neutral ice and goes around Mike Green like he is an orange cone and beats Theodore on the backhand. Beautiful goal for the Jackets. 1-1 with 14 minutes to go 2nd period.
6:15 Jeff Schultz called for holding. Columbus PP time.
6:18: Quintin Laing, finally recovered from Swine Flu (5 days), blocks a shot as Blue Jacket power play expires.
6:19: OVECHKIN not on the bench. This is not good.
6:20 Al Koken saying he does not think Ovechkin’s absence is equipment related but Beninati saying he sees trainer Greg Smith on the bench. Conflicting info here.
6:21 Referees miss obvious slash as Keith Aucoin loses his stick when it was hit by Columbus player.
6:22 Comcast shows replay of Ovechkin play where he might have been injured. Great #8 gets up after Blue Jacket Raffi Torres falls on him (plus appears to catch him with his stick) but Alex appears to be upset as he skates off under his own power. Hopefully he returns.
6:27 Morrison hits pipe and then Green is stopped by Mason on a quality chance. Good pressure and shift by the Caps but game still tied. No update on Ovechkin.
6:29 Caps doing a good job of creating neutral zone turnovers and Laich makes a great move on Columbus defender to go in alone on Mason but he stands tall. If Caps can keep intercepting those break out passes from the Blue Jackets then it is just a matter of time before they score.
6:33 2:56 to go in 2nd period. Still no word on Ovechkin. Score still 1-1.
6:35: Not sure what Caps were doing there as Jakub Voracek skates right through Mike Knuble (who slashed him and took a penalty), then Schultz and Brian Pothier to go in alone on Theodore but he hits the pipe. Brutal play by the Capitals! They were not moving their feet.
6:37 Easy tap in for Blue Jackets as Theo goes out to play the puck but it richochets out in front for an easy Columbus tap in. 2-1 bad guys. Caps looking listless right now.
6:39 Caps get late power play that will carry over into third period if they don’t score in final 12 seconds.
6:40 End of Period Two: Columbus 2, Caps 1. Analysis: The big news is Ovechkin is out with an apparent injury, although he skated off under his own power. The Great #8 hinted to Dmitri Chesnokov of the Examiner that many Caps are not 100% physically and perhaps Alex tweaked something he was fighting through? Right now we don’t have any idea what is wrong with him. To the ice, Columbus scored a transition goal to tie the game and then they got a fluky bounce on a power play to take the lead. This game has gone back and forth with each team dominating various stretches. The Blue Jackets do seem to have the Caps number right now so it will be a tough task, without the Great #8, for Washington to win this one.
7:06 Third period underway and Tom Poti almost scores at the end of the Caps power play. Washington then does a great job killing off a Columbus power play. Still no sign of Ovechkin, although his return has not been ruled out.
7:08 Caps about to go on power play. They need to connect here.
7:11 A Poti power play blast is slammed home in front by Laich, 2-2 game at the Verizon Center now! 11:40 to go.
7:15 Caps buzzing like crazy and Laich scores again in front to make it 3-2. Fleischmann almost adds another. 9 minutes left!
7:18 Just over 8 minutes left in Caps game. They finally found a way to solve Mason, CRASH THE NET!
7:23 Torres ties the game up as Theodore loses his stick. Game tied at 3. DOH! Shaone Morrisonn loses his guy once again!
7:30 Bradley shoots, Steckel crashes net and makes great pass to Laing, back from Swine Flu, for 4-3 Washington lead.
7:31 Caps take a dumb penalty by Knuble slashing. He needs to stop doing that, bad penalty. Blue Jackets now have a PP and can tie it up.
7:33 Caps so far killing penalty. Columbus changes goalie to delay face-off and get rest plus get better puck handler in with Mathieu Garon. 1:09 left
7:35 Torres, the man who hurt Ovechkin, ties it with 22 seconds left. Knuble penalty very costly. OT very likely. Mason back in goal. Tough way to give up the lead.
7:39 We go to OT after a big scrum. This game has had a lot of crazy bounces.
7:41 Theodore glove save to settle the play. 3:50 left in OT
7:43 Brian Pothier takes a bad penalty, interfering in the slot when the puck was away from the play. Then Columbus scores on the power play when Nash sets up Umberger in front. Caps let this one get away. Back a little later with analysis.