Less than 24 hours after finishing what most consider to have been their best game of the season, the Caps turned in one from the other end of the spectrum in a 2-1 loss to the Wild in Minnesota.
To be sure, playing the second of back-to-back games in separate time zones is rarely easy, as the logistics of doing so take a toll that's often as much mental as it is physical. But from the opening whistle - and the fourth line going offside just nine seconds in - to the final buzzer, the Caps were out of sync and seemingly out of energy, save a late adrenaline- and desperation-filled burst. And if one number could tell the story of the game for the boys from D.C., this is it: the game was 43:32 old before a Caps forward from one of the bottom three lines registered a shot on goal (and that was a weak 44-foot wrister from Mathieu Perreault). It's not impossible to win NHL games with an effort like that... but it's most definitely not a recipe for repeated success.
Ten more notes on the game:
- For the second time in as many nights (and in so many October games already), Michal Neuvirth was the Caps' best player, stopping 15 of 17 shots against, but playing better than those numbers would indicate. And you can bet that all game long, he was reminding his teammates that they were still in the game and would continue to be if he had anything to say about it. (Don't be surprised to see him get the start Saturday night, either.)
- The Wild came into the game having outscored opponents 11-6 in eight first periods, while the Caps had been outscored 9-4 in nine. So you could've skipped the first period and predictably tuned in at 1-0 Minny to start the second.
- As cliche as it is, hockey's a game of inches... and if Mike Knuble and Nicklas Backstrom lifted their best chances of the night just a few inches higher, the Caps might have headed to the third period tied at two (but full credit to Niklas Backstrom for a couple of super stops).
- Tough night for John Carlson, whose failure to tie up Chuck Kobasew's stick was instrumental in the Wild's first goal (pictured), followed up by a puck in the face and being on the ice for Minnesota's second tally as well.
- Alex Semin had an early third period shorthanded breakaway on which he managed to miss the net entirely. Yeah, that would've been a good time to have lit the lamp.
- The last time Alex Ovechkin went a half-dozen games without a goal (which is where he was headed until striking a 18:24 of the third) was late last season, with a pair of three game droughts bracketing the Olympics. The time before that? The beginning of the 2008-09 season, when he had two goals through 11 games... and ended up with 56.
Matt Bradley was credited with a game-high (tied) five hits in just 8:46 of ice time, but it was his late second period penalty that put the League's best power play back to work, leading to the eventual game-winning goal. One of the most impressive things about Brads' 2009-10 campaign was his discipline, given the role he plays, but that wasn't on display in this instance.
Jose Theodore? Still handsome, especially in that beauty of a Wild home sweater.
- It was an awful night for the Caps' second- and third-line centers, as Perreault and Tomas Fleischmann combined for no points, two shots on goal, and a 6-for-19 (31.6%) night in the dot. Unlike many a wine, the issue of the Caps' depth down the middle is not getting better with age.
- And speaking of not getting better, Tyler Sloan skated just 11 shifts and 7:40 on the night, and didn't play after right around the midpoint of the game. Hopefully he's healthy, of course, but one could hardly blame Bruce Boudreau if he stapled his sixth defenseman to the end of the bench after a brutal turnover/penalty combination earlier in the game. Then again, if benching Sloan was the reason Mike Green played more than 30 minutes (with more than 23 of them coming at even strength)... Sloan must have been hurt.
And so it's off to Calgary to end the roadie with a Hockey Night in Canada late game on Saturday against a Flames team that has been superb defensively so far. If the Caps want to come home with two more points on this trip, they're going to have to look a lot more like they did in Carolina than they did in Minnesota.