Prior to last night, the Caps were 20-1-1 when leading after two periods on the season. They were 27-1-2 in such situations a season ago, 21-1-5 in 2006-07, 18-1-3 in 2005-06, 20-0-3 in 2003-04, 27-1-3-2 in 2002-03, 24-1-4-1 in 2001-02, 27-1-4-0 in 2000-01, 26-1-3-0 in 1999-2000, and 23-1-2-0 in 1998-99. So in nine-and-a-half seasons, the team had carried leads into the third period 275 times and lost only nine of those games in regulation, with no more than one of those losses coming in any one season. Until last night.
I'll give this to the Caps, though - when they blow it, they blow it big, giving up four third period goals for the first time since December 29, 2007 (a game they still managed to win 8-6).
Bruce Boudreau - denied a chance to stand behind the Eastern Conference All-Stars bench by virtue of the loss - said it best: "We allowed four goals in the third period, and it is just dumb hockey."
It's easy to throw Milan Jurcina under the bus (as Boudreau did) on this one for his mistake with just seconds left, but there was enough blame to go around, not just on that play (Karl Alzner's failure to clear the puck at the top of the zone, Brent Johnson's inability to stop a stoppable puck), but throughout the game - Eric Fehr's lack of backchecking and Sean Collins' poor positioning on the second Plekanec goal, Tyler Sloan's second consecutive game with a horrible and costly penalty, Tomas Fleischmann's inability to play the point on the Plekanec shorty, the team's failure to recognize that four-on-four hockey means you can only put four skaters out on the ice, etc.
There were some positives to come out of the game - Alex Semin's two goals, Michael Nylander's second multi-point game since October 25 and his second goal since October 16 - but the game leaves a bad taste in one's mouth because of the way it happened (including the questionable officiating involved in the unravelling). Then again, with Tom Poti, Jeff Schultz and John Erskine healthy and the team's number one netminder between the pipes, some of the above-mentioned players aren't even in uniform, much less on the ice in the last minute of a tie game.
There's little rest for the weary Caps, with Edmonton coming to town on Tuesday, a visit to Pittsburgh on Wednesday, and the Conference-leading Bruins coming to town on Saturday. Last night's loss capped a frustrating weekend for the Caps and their fans in fittingly frustrating fashion, but it's important that it remains just that - a frustrating weekend. If it continues into the week...