The Caps were put right back into the loss column by allowing an Ottawa comeback. (Yahoo)
The Washington Capitals suffered a bad loss on Tuesday night, falling to the Ottawa Senators by a 3-2 score at Scotiabank. After jumping out to a 2-0 lead in the first period off goals from Troy Brouwer and Matt Hendricks, the Capitals allowed three unanswered goals on away ice to fall back into the loss column following their first win if the year on Sunday. The Capitals now have only three standings points and sit second to last in the Eastern Conference with three big games – against the Maple Leafs, Flyers, and Penguins – coming up in the next week. It’s already gut check time because of the short schedule.
Forced to contend with an early penalty kill after only 90 seconds, the Capitals’ lowly shorthanded unit faced a test right out of the gates and stood tall with some help from Michal Neuvirth, who was making his fourth consecutive start. Soon after, Washington had a power play taken away when Zack Smith and Nicklas Backstrom were called for minor penalties on the same play. Following the expiration of the penalties, the Caps began to amp up the pressure on the Sens, forcing Craig Anderson to makes some big saves. At 13:15 of the first period, however, Troy Brouwer gave the Capitals a 1-0 lead when he cashed in on a neutral zone turnover and a pass from Wojtek Wolski. The Caps were unable to score on a power play right after their goal, but doubled their advantage in short order with a Jay Beagle tally on the short side. A late period of four on four yielded nothing, and the frame closed with DC ahead by a deuce.
Washington continued to press offensively in the opening stages of the middle frame, forcing Anderson in to some more saves. The chances weren’t amazing, but the Caps’ puck possession was noticeable, hemming the home team into their zone for prolonged stretches. The constant possession began to slow the game down a tad, though Washington did have two very good chances around the midway mark of the period that were turned aside by Anderson. Towards the end of the period, however, with 1:23 left, the Senators halved their deficit with a goal in front by Jim O’Brien, putting a sour bookend on a frame the Caps dominated.
Riding their momentum from the end of the second period and feeling the energy of their fans, Ottawa came out hard and fast to begin the third period. Just over two minutes in to the period, Milan Michalek equalized for the Senators off a faceoff along the ice, a bad goal for Neuvirth to allow. Things got worse four minutes later when Alex Ovechkin, seconds after turning the puck over, took a slashing call to send the Senators to a power play. The Capitals killed off the shorthanded situation and then got a man advantage for themselves with 7:37 left in regulation. They could not cash in, setting up a frantic finish to regulation. Just north of three minutes left in regulation, Ottawa was given another power play when Joel Ward was called for high-sticking on a follow-through, and Sergei Gonchar made the visitors pay with a one-time missile from the center point. DC could not tie it up late, and fell to 1-4-1.
The Capitals stopped playing in the third period of this game. They were dominating through 40 minutes, playing Oates’ system very well and controlling the tempo of the game. They scored two goals and couldn’t convert on a bunch of chances. Then, in the third, they stopped skating and let the Senators come at them in waves. The home team converted on their chances, the Capitals did not. It’s that simple.
Michal Neuvirth has got to stop Michalek’s goal. Right off the faceoff, Neuvirth cheated over and allowed himself to get beat along the ice; this is inexcusable. I would not go as far as saying the goal cost the Caps a point, because they also missed a bunch of chances and he made some big saves earlier in the game, but it’s one he needs to have. He had a firm hand on the starting gig heading into the game, but I would wager Braden Holtby starts in Toronto.
This was a bad loss. What was at one point an excellent team effort with good play all over the ice turned sour in a hurry, and it was the Caps’, not the referees, who did the damage. No, Joel Ward’s penalty was not really a penalty, but the point is that the game should have been over before that. You have to capitalize on your chances; it’s paramount in any season but especially a shortened one. You have to execute for 60 minutes.
The Capitals play next on Thursday night in Toronto. They need to win that game.
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.