Saturday, January 13, 2007

Caps Take Vacation in Florida

Florida Panthers 7, Washington Capitals 3
A second consecutive sloppy outing drops the Capitals back to .500.

They were outplayed from the moment the puck dropped. The Panthers took advantage of Washington's slow start and jumped out to a 2-0 lead by the end of the first period. If not for the play of Olaf Kolzig the game would have been already out of hand by that point.
Godzilla kept them in the game and following an Alexander Semin goal halfway through the second period, the Caps looked as though they would make a comeback. It was the fifth consecutive game that Semin had scored, netting his 25th goal of the season and NHL leading 8th of January. The goal was also the 18th time in the last 21 games that either Semin or Alex Ovechkin had scored for the Caps.
But as was the case on Thursday night in Tampa, the Capitals could not keep the momentum on their side. Towards the later part of the second period the Panthers pumped three goals past Kolzig in five minutes and took a 5-1 lead into the intermission. If that didn't dampen the hopes of the Caps getting back into the game, an early third period goal by Stephen Weiss would take care of the rest, putting the game out of reach for good. Weiss would later complete his first career hat trick on the power play netting his 11th goal of the season.
The bright spot for the Capitals was an excellent individual effort by Matt Pettinger, scoring on a short handed breakaway halfway through the third period for his 11th goal of the season. Chris Clark would add his 16th goal of the season in the closing moments of the game.
As can be expected in this type of a game, a number of Capitals' players were exploited. The Panthers seemed to have an excellent scouting report on the Caps and executed their game plan to perfection. Lawrence Nycholat was attacked repeatedly in the first period by the Panthers, who chose a dump and chase style followed by an intense forecheck, to knock him to the ice on numerous occasions. It will be interesting to see if other teams will try this approach as well to take advantage of Nycholat's small stature.
Game Notes: Jakub Klepis was a healthy scratch for the third consecutive game. He has not dressed since Matt Bradley returned from injured reserve. John Erskine, Bryan Muir, and Richard Zednik remain on IR. The Capitals gave up 54 shots on goal including 27 in the second period alone. Backup goaltender Brent Johnson replaced Olaf Kolzig at the beginning of the third period. The Panthers win was only their 3rd in 15 division games so far this year. The Caps lost their 5th straight road game.

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