Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Poor Special Teams Play Dooms Caps in Montreal

Capitals Fall For the 7th Straight Time on the Road
Montreal Canadians 5, Washington Capitals 3
(Photo Courtesy of Ian Barrett/AP)

If the Capitals were going to find a way to snap out of their current road funk, this was the game to do it. The Montreal Canadians had lost 4 straight games at home, and found out today that they'll be playing the rest of the regular season without their All-Star goaltender Cristobal Huet.

But that didn't seem to matter tonight, and once again the Caps played an atrocious first period that saw them having to play from behind. They took penalty after penalty and the Canadians made them pay. With the help of 2 goals by Christopher Higgins and 1 goal by Michael Ryder, Montreal converted on 3 of 7 power play opportunities to take a 3-0 lead into the first intermission.

From the second period on the Caps looked like a completely different team. Their hard work shut down the Canadians attack and allowed them to generate an offensive attack for the first time in the game. Just 2:06 into the period, a slap shot from the point by defenseman Jamie Heward was tipped home by Brian Sutherby, past Montreal's rookie goaltender Jaroslav Halak, for his 4th goal of the season. It was Sutherby's first goal since January 9th.

Washington kept the pressure on and with the same lineup still on the ice they scored again 30 seconds later. For the second time Heward ripped a slap shot from the point, this time it was deflected off Maxim Lapierre's stick and through Halak's five hole to get the Caps right back in the game, 3-2.

Late in the period the Capitals special teams let them down again. This time though it was while they were on the power play, as Montreal notched their league leading 16th short handed goal of the season. Michael Ryder tallied his 2nd goal of the game and 19th on the year when he made a nice curl and drag move around Alexander Semin, who was forced into a defensive position because he plays the point with the extra man, and snapped a shot past Brent Johnson. Semin would atone for his defensive mistake on the same power play. He took a pass from Heward in the neutral zone and maneuvered his way up the ice, around defenseman Sheldon Souray, and roofed a shot off of the upper right corner in what was a beautiful one man effort. It was Semin's 31st goal of the season and gave his team some hope heading into the 3rd period as they once again only trailed by one, 4-3.

But the Caps could not get any closer and managed only 4 shots in the final period. A Garth Murray empty netter sealed their fate with 58 seconds to go as the Caps road record fell to 1-12-1 in their last 14 games.

It was a physical game from the start. Multiple scrums ensued after the whistles as Canadians' captain Saku Koivu was involved throughout the night. In the first period he and Milan Jurcina had a shoving match behind the Capitals net. Later in the third period Koivu and Matt Pettinger were both handed matching roughing minors after exchanging blows.

During the course of the game two Caps players left the ice with blood dripping from their face. Alexander Perezhogin elbowed Shoane Morrisonn in the first period and Matt Bradley was hit with a high stick by Christopher Higgins before a faceoff in the third period. Each player returned to action after receiving some medical care and their attackers were both given double minors for drawing blood.

The Caps will have a short time to recover from this game as they will host the San Jose Sharks Wednesday night at the Verizon Center. The team announced that all upper deck tickets can be purchased for 50% off of the normal price for this game only. The offer is limited to the first 500 orders.

Game Notes:

Kris Beech, Ben Clymer, and Steve Eminger were again the healthy scratches.... The Caps could only muster 18 shots on Halak as he won his second consecutive start of his NHL career.... Jamie Heward was originally credited with two goals on the night, but his first goal was later awarded to Sutherby. He would've had the fastest two goals in Capitals history for a defenseman.... Alex Ovechkin was shut out again and now has just 1 goal and 1 assist in his last 8 games.


kenhockey said...

They are one of the most frustrating teams I have ever watched. I have signed up for a weekend plan for next year for 2 tickets costing me over $3,000 and I'm beginning to wonder if it's worth it. They will be lucky to get 70 points this year.

Capital Fanatic said...

But you're getting on board at the right time. This team will be one of the best in the game in another year or two.

kenhockey said...

That remains to be seen. I hope you're right. But I have been a loyal and dedicated and sometimes medicated fan for 34 years and I've heard the promises before.
You know, the Devils came into the league the same year the Caps did, as the Kansas City Scouts. How they have become such a consistently good team and won a Cup, and the Caps have had a few bright years, but that's about it.
That tells me management has a lot to do with it. A couple of weeks ago we're talking playoffs, and now its doubtful if they'll even match last years points total. That is pathetic.