Sharks Outskate Caps, 5-2

December 31, 2009 | Ed Frankovic

After pretty much putting up a clunker on Monday night against last place Carolina, the Washington Capitals followed that up with another bad outing on Wednesday getting outshot 13-3 in the first period to fall behind by two goals en route to an overall 5-2 loss to the best team in the Western Conference, the San Jose Sharks. The Sharks, who I picked to win the Stanley Cup prior to the season, were clearly ready to avenge a Caps 4-1 win over San Jose at the Verizon Center back in October and they came out flying. This defeat drops the Caps to 24-10-6 and their next contest is at the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday at 4pm on Comcast in HD.

Here is the post game analysis:

Wow, that was just terrible hockey by Washington and it was only the 3rd contest all year that the Caps did not lead at any time. This has now occurred two games in a row. There were numerous defensive zone giveaways and bad clears that led to so many San Jose chances. The Sharks were faster to the puck and seemed to want this game more. I don’t have enough room in this blog to list all of the Washington turnovers and misplays.

I thought this was defenseman Karl Alzner’s worst game of the season. He made the mistake that led to the second Sharks goal and he was routinely running around in his own zone along with defensive partner John Erskine. #27 just didn’t look comfortable against a very speedy San Jose club. But only blaming Alzner would be wrong too. Shaone Morrisonn, for some unknown reason, decided to vacate the left side of the ice, where he belonged, to try and make a big hit inside the Caps blue line and it allowed Joe Pavelski to go in alone on Michal Neuvirth for the first goal. Terrible play by #26 and it was pointed out by former Flames GM Craig Button on the NHL Network’s “On The Fly” afterwards. I could go on and on about other defensive breakdowns but it is not worth it at this hour.

Neuvirth (28 saves) kept the Caps in this one for as long as he could but Washington was too intent on making the lazy pass and not sacrificing their bodies to make the difficult and rewarding play. With all of the giveaways and poor defensive zone coverage #30 faced a shooting gallery. The Sharks also received two penalty shots, the first on an iffy tripping call on Mike Green with the second on another questionable call on Erskine, and Neuvirth was beaten badly on both of them (Ryan Clowe and Joe Thornton). Neuvirth’s rebound control was good again but he got little help in front of him. If you want to fault the goalie, the only real place I can agree with you on that premise is on the penalty shots, he did not look good on either of them.

The Caps power play had a chance to get Washington back into this one when it was 2-0 but they couldn’t convert on a 49 second 5 on 3. The Sharks made sure that Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Semin could not make the cross crease pass that has worked so successfully lately. As a result, the Caps needed to go to a pass to the point, blast it, and go for rebounds mode but they continued to try and get the perfect set up and thus scored no goals. Washington was 0 for 4 on the night while San Jose was 0 for 3 with the man advantage. The Sharks did score on the two penalty shots that should have been simple minors, at best.

The two referees (Dennis LaRue and Brad Meier) were bad tonight, they missed a hold and a hook on Alexander Ovechkin when it was 2-0 and the Sharks would score shortly thereafter, but as much as I would like to blame the zebras for this one they were not as bad as the overall Caps effort.

On the positive side of things, Washington’s first goal was set up nicely by new Cap Jason Chimera, who threw the puck in front and Mike Knuble banged it home (made it 3-1 early in the 3rd period). The Caps could have used more of that “crash the net” mentality against a very sharp Evgeni Nabokov (24 saves). In addition, Oveckhin scored his 26th goal of the season off of a face-off win by Backstrom late in the game. The Great #8 and Sharks defensemen Dan Boyle and Doug Murray had physical battles going back and forth throughout this contest.

Green, who was snubbed by Team Canada today, had an up and down game. He hit the pipe twice on scoring chances but he also made a turnover that led to Clowe’s penalty shot. It was a day that #52 will like to quickly forget.

Caps fans will want to move on from this one quickly as well. I know I do.