Thursday, February 1, 2007

Caps Season Hits Lowest Point

Team Falls to Last Place in Southeast Division and 13th in Conference After Another Loss to Florida
Florida Panthers 6, Washington Capitals 3
(Photo Courtesy of Steve Mitchell/AP)

It's hard if not impossible to win in the NHL or any professional league when you are continuously playing from behind. The Capitals continued their trend of slow starts spotting the Panthers a 2-0 lead in the first period. It was the third time in the last four games that the Caps allowed their opponents to score the first two goals of the game.

For some unspeakable reason, Florida just has the Caps number. It was the third consecutive meeting that the Panthers dominated from the get go. They tried to make a game of it though and following the opening goals by Stumpel and Gelinas, a power play goal by Chris Clark pulled them within one with a minute and a half left in the first period. The goal was Clark's 22nd of the season as he tapped in a loose puck that had squeezed through Belfour's seven hole on a shot by Danius Zubrus.

They continued to pressure the Panthers leading to another power play in the last minute of the period. Following a faceoff win by Boyd Gordon, Semin fired a wrist shot on goal with four seconds remaining. Zubrus passed the rebound to Gordon in the front who deposited the puck into the back of the net, however it was a second too late as the period had already come to a close. It was a tough break as the momentum of the game could have changed dramatically had the goal counted.

The second period brought more missed opportunites as four minutes into the period the Caps were unable to take advantage on a 5 on 3 power play for 51 seconds. That was the turning point in the game as one minute later the Panthers would make it 3-1 following a nice pass from behind the net by Juraj Kolnik right onto the waiting stick of Ville Peltonen in front for his 9th goal of the season.

It was all Panthers from there as the Caps would be called on back to back penalties by Steve Eminger and Jamie Heward one minute apart to give Florida a 5 on 3 opportunity at the mid point of the second. Unlike the Capitals, they took advantage of the gift and following a Ruslan Salei shot from the point that clanged off the right post, Jozef Stumpel put home his second of the game and 15th on the year blowing the game open 4-1.

A frustrated Kolzig let everyone know how he felt after the goal by first breaking his stick over the goal post and then firing the puck down the ice. His display would give him an unsportsmanlike minor and put Florida back on another 5 on 3 power play. The Caps would kill it off but it would not matter as five minutes later Kolnik would finish a two on one breakaway depositing a beautiful cross ice pass from Stumpel past a flailing Kolzig for a 5-1 lead.

The lone bright spot came in the third period when just two and a half minutes in, Ovechkin entered the Panthers zone and used defenseman Salei as a screen to beat Belfour five hole for his NHL leading 33rd goal of the season. The goal would also extend his career best point streak to 13 games.

Zubrus would add a power play goal, and Marin Gelinas would answer with a power play goal of his own to make the final score 6-3.

Richard Zednik played for the first time in 2007 after missing the last 26 games due to his sports hernia surgery. He was flying around the ice and provided the team with a nice spark leading to his being doubled shifted at times, showing no sign of his injury.

Alexander Semin played perhaps his worst game of the season, as despite his two assists he was awful defensively. He had two turnovers in the first period that directly led to breakaway opportunities for the Panthers. The first one Kolzig bailed him out on, but the second chance led to a penalty by Semin, which resulted in a power play goal.

Capitals' commentator Joe Benenati described the game best at the end of the second period when he said he felt like he'd been stapled in his forehead. The loss was the Caps 9th out of their last 10 road games.

Game Notes:

With the win Belfour improved his record to 3-0-0 against the Caps this season.... Kolzig had 4 PIM on the night.... The attendance on the night was 11,300 which is only 58.7% of the capacity at the BankAtlantic Center.... With Zednik returning to the lineup, Kris Beech was a healthy scratch.... Matt Bradley was also scratched for the 4th consecutive game despite rejoining the team following his absence for personal reasons.... Brent Johnson was a late medical scratch and was replaced by goaltender Daren Machesney who had been demoted to South Carolina earlier in the day.... In just over a year and a half, Alex Ovechkin has scored more career goals in a Capitals uniform (85) than any of his teammates (Dainius Zubrus is second with 84).

1 comment:

Fauxrumors said...

1) Not that they had realistic chances of the post season, but that game was probably it. They will have to play .800 the rest of the way to even have a shot
2) This team has some big decisons to make the next few weeks. Do they try to make a move geared toward next season? A healthy Zednik might fetch a decent prospect of 2nd round pick. A more interestig possibility would be a trade of a defenseman. Specificly Eminger. he's been a bit of a enigma, but shown flashes of excellant play. He's a RFA after this season, but with the number of good young defenders the caps ave a bit of a surplus