Washington after 36 games played this season have shown some consistent trends throughout the course of a hockey game. They are reliant on their special teams, they get out to a slow start and they cannot maintain a lead. Several of those trends were on display tonight against the NHL’s best Anaheim Ducks.
One trend that did not show tonight, a slow start. Eric Fehr started a two on one breakaway with a perfectly deflected pass off of the boards that hit fellow line mate Mikhail Grabovski in stride. Grabovski and Troy Brouwer made a nice give and go play to set up Grabovski’s 11th goal of the season, just over seven minutes into the first frame. Second line production has not always been there this season, but as of late this line has played well with each other.
Another trend that was on display tonight were the special teams. Nicklas Backstrom recorded his 9th goal of the season on the power play. Backstrom was looking for the saucer pass back to the point toward Green, but took the space he was given for a nice wrister past Hiller. That kind of aggression is something Caps fans would not mind seeing more out of Backstrom, who has displayed quite the sneaky wrist shot over the course of his career. The final trend would come into play once again and would prove to be an Achilles heel of the team. With below three minutes to play in the first period, Andrew Cogliano put it past Grubauer to cut the lead to one.
Throughout the second period, both teams exchanged penalties that gave the opposition plenty of opportunities to score. Neither of them scored on the extra man opportunities, but the period was not left scoreless. Just under 30 seconds to go in the second, Saku Koivu tied the game up for his 5th goal of the season.
Another lead lost for Washington heading into the third, but there was still time for redemption. Hampus Lindholm made it three unanswered goals for the Anaheim Ducks, just less than six minutes left into the game. Another lead squandered away for the Caps, but like so many times this season, there was still time for a comeback. The fans at Verizon Center almost had their prayers answered when Alex Ovechkin fired off a shot in the slot that hit the cross bar. It took an awkward bounce and the refs waved it off. It eventually went to replay and the league ruled it a no goal all the way from Toronto. It was a good call even though the sell-out crowd in DC was not pleased with the end result. Washington was unable to convert at the end of the game with the extra man attempt after pulling Grubauer.
It was a tough, hard fought hockey game by two teams the whole sixty minutes. Against the best team currently in the NHL, it was a good effort by the home team amidst the holiday season. It is still a disappointing loss in a sense because this has been the story so often during this season. The Capitals find a way to lose leads quickly and end up trying to fight their way back in at the last minute. Anaheim is now currently on a 9-game winning after this comeback win.
Philipp Grubauer played a nice game tonight in goal stopping 26 of the 29 shots he had faced. It was his first loss in regulation in his short career thus far. Troy Brouwer also had himself a nice game, recording 2 assists and having great success in the face-off circle. Brooks Laich returned back to action tonight after missing the last 11 contests. He was used in even strength play, on the penalty kill and on the power play. Laich is always useful in the penalty kill, which was perfect in shutting down all of Anaheim’s four extra man opportunities. The power play for Washington was one for five and the Caps also won 45 face-offs to the Ducks 23.
The Caps now have a 19-14-4 record (42 points) heading into a holiday break. They resume action this Friday night back at the Verizon Center against their rival New York Rangers. The Rangers sit in third place in the Metropolitan division with 38 points in the standings. It is a big game for Washington, as they need to keep pace ahead of the rest of the division below them.