Raycroft, Zebras Beat Caps, 2-1

December 03, 2010 | Ed Frankovic

Andrew Raycroft of the Dallas Stars stopped 37 of 38 shots and received some help from the referees as an apparent Capitals game tying goal was waved off with eight seconds left in regulation to end Washington’s winning streak at four games. The Caps, who were shorthanded four times in the middle period and twice in the third, lost 2-1 and fell to 18-7-2 on the season. They still lead the Southeast Division by seven points since both the Tampa Bay Lightning and Atlanta Thrashers also were defeated on Thursday night.

Here are the highlights of a tilt that was difficult to watch because the ice in Texas was so horrible and the zebras were nearly as bad:

– On the wiped out Caps goal with eight seconds left, Alexander Oveckin is in front of the cage making contact with d-man Stephane Robidas. Neither player is touching Raycroft and as Washington is about to fire the biscuit into the net, Stars defensemen Karlis Skrastins comes sliding in from the right post and bangs into his own goalie. The Caps score and raise their sticks but referee Dan O’Rourke waved it off immediately and when the face-off was moved outside the Stars zone, Caps Coach Bruce Boudreau went postal on the zebras and earned an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. That was simply the culmination of a frustrating night in which it seemed everything was let go in the opening stanza then every ticky tack call in the book went against Washington in the middle frame. The Caps would kill off the first three Stars man advantages but they finally tired out and Mike Ribeiro scored to give Dallas the lead on their fourth power play of the second period.

– The Caps, who outshot the Stars 38-21, would pressure hard in the final stanza and on their second power play of the period and third of the night, they finally scored as Mike Green carried the puck in from the right point and made an outstanding pass to Mike Knuble in the slot, who buried it into a vacant left side of the net. Overall the Stars had six power plays (although the last one was for 8 seconds) while Washington just had three in a disturbing trend that continues to see the Capitals come out on the short end of the stick from the referees.

– Michael Neuvirth got the start in net after Semyon Varlamov had played the previous night in St. Louis (Caps won 4-1). #30 made several big stops in this tilt but the game winning tally is one he would like to have back. Brandon Segal received a cross ice feed from Brendan Morrow and Karl Alzner reached out trying to block the shot and the puck may or may not have nicked #27’s stick on the way to the cage. Nonetheless, the biscuit eluded Neuvirth top shelf and the Stars jumped back in front just 20 seconds after the Caps had worked hard to tie this one up. It was a goal that cannot be allowed in that situation.

– From there Washington stormed the castle but just couldn’t solve Raycroft. They also missed the net several times too. Part of that may have been trying to pick corners because the Stars goalie was playing well and the other part could have been the bad surface. Hockey Night in Canada’s Jeff Marek tweeted that the ice in Dallas was the worst he’s seen all year in the NHL. Passing was difficult and both teams suffered from players overskating the puck or having it stick to the ice. Is Fred Biletnikoff in charge of the zamboni at American Airlines arena? Inquiring minds want to know because it sure looked like the ice was covered with “Stick ‘Em.”

– Scott Hannan made his Caps debut on defense and he played solid, although it was his penalty that resulted in the Stars first tally. #23 blocked four shots in 19:02 of ice time. He looked comfortable in Boudreau’s aggressive system, which is different than the one he played in with Colorado.

Notes: Washington won the face-off battle, 30-28, and this was the 14th straight contest in which the Caps were 50% or better on draws, so much for those struggles from the dot we heard about after just first four tilts into season…Matt Hendricks fought Segal (won the bout, too) and also drew a penalty. #26 does all of the little things and it is clear why Boudreau and GM George McPhee wanted this type of player on their squad…Eric Fehr had the second assist on the Caps only goal…Ovechkin fired five shots on net, had four attempts blocked, and missed the cage on three other tries in 22:27 of ice time…Tom Poti did not play due to a bad groin and John Erskine appeared to injure his leg in the first period. #4 left for awhile but returned and logged only 11:23 of ice time…next up for the Capitals are the Atlanta Thrashers at the Verizon Center on Saturday night at 7pm. Atlanta had their six game winning streak snapped by the Pittsburgh Penguins and Sidney Crosby’s hat trick, 3-2, on Thursday night.