Quick Hits: Penalty Parade. Capitals 2, Devils 3

Oh, dear. (NJnow.com)

The Washington Capitals lost their second consecutive game on Thursday night, falling to the New Jersey Devils 3-2 in Washington in the first half of a home-set doubleheader with the Eastern Conference Champions.  After scoring two power play goals, on each from Mathieu Perreault and Mike Ribeiro, to take a 2-1 lead into the third period, the Capitals fell apart in the third period.  Taking bad penalties and paying the prices of said penalties, Washington allowed two goals in the first ten minutes of the frame and were unable to climb back into the game when gassed after killing so many power plays.  With the loss, the Capitals fall to 5-10-1 and remain in last place across the Southeast Division, the Eastern Conference, and the entire National Hockey League.

These penalties are just getting ridiculous.  The Capitals were playing well at even strength Thursday, not necessarily dominating but holding their own and controlling the end of the second period en route to an intermission lead.  Then, the Capitals took six penalties in the opening 11 minutes of the third period and conceded twice.  Adam Oates has said it countless times: though the penalty kill is playing well (and it played really well Thursday), continually killing penalties drains the bottom six and gets the top six cold.  It’s a recipe for failure and until Washington figures it out, they will continue to lose games.

Braden Holtby was a stud tonight as he continues to rebound from his crash at the beginning of the season.  He didn’t have a realistic chance on any of the goals and made some huge saves to keep the lead for the Capitals and then keep them within striking distance.  I think he will be rested on Saturday, however, in favor of Michal Neuvirth, who deserves a shot after sitting on the pine for two weeks.

Alex Ovechkin looked energized on Thursday night.  The Capitals’ captain moved well on his skates in all three zones, something we certainly have not seen enough of, and pulled off some highlight-reel moves that almost led to goals for his team.  You felt like he was going to score during the first two periods, and he almost did on a breakaway late in the second.  He missed on the breakaway and then took a dumb penalty in the third period to put his team shorthanded (again) after a good kill.  He’s now at ten points in 16 games.

Tomas Kundratek continues to impress in the ice time he is given at all strengths.  The Czech, who was acquired almost on a whim last year, was called up as a result of injuries and suspensions this year and has been solid for Washington, even piled up some points.  He’s been a bright spot in the Washington D corps of late and with Mike Green still out, he will be needed to continue to eat more ice.

At this point, the Capitals will need a big miracle in order to make the playoffs.  With their three consecutive wins last week, it looked like the team had turned a corner and was beginning to build momentum, but two games against elite Eastern Conference sides have produced losses.  One-goal losses, but losses nonetheless.  As I wrote at the beginning of the season, this is not a championship caliber team, and I really hope the team’s management and especially ownership realizes it and makes the appropriate adjustments.  This is not Adam Oates’ fault, it is their fault – and though better times are definitely ahead as this partial rebuild comes to fruition over the next calendar year, it’s ugly now.  It is time to start looking towards June, and adding another great, young player like Seth Jones or Nathan MacKinnon.  It is that bad, and there is that little hope for a playoff spot because of the way Washington is playing and the simple math of this shortened season.

Washington will practice Friday before hosting the Devils at noon on Saturday in the second half off this off doubleheader.x

Harry Hawkings is a college student credentialed to cover the Capitals for RtR.  Follow him on Twitter here for all your news needs this season.

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