For awhile there it seemed like the Capitals would be able to hold off the Stars with just one or two goals. But for the second time in three games, the Caps jumped out to a 2-goal lead only to see it slip away - and despite the late game heroics of their captain, were unable to hang on to the game.
At this point in the season, with the standings the way they are, points and wins are almost secondary - the Caps are eying the Presidents' Trophy but the more important task is to find some chemistry, establish a playoff mindset and get everyone and everything clicking. And while there were times tonight that the Caps simply looked unbeatable, some of the old habits still slipped in and reminded us that there is work to do yet before the spring.
Ten more notes on the game:
- By the end of the first period, the Caps had racked up 19 shots on goal, tying a season high - one that would be demolished in the second when they added another 23 shots on goal. According to Versus, that 42-shot total through two periods was a franchise record. With 10 more in the 3rd, the grand total was 52 shots. Wait...how did they lose this game again?
- Two words: Marty Turco. This wasn't the oft-maligned goalie of the past few years - this was old school Turco, turning aside shot after shot with frustrating athleticism (and a bit of luck). He was the reason the Stars were in the game long enough to tie and eventually pull ahead, and he's the reason they come away with two points tonight.
- And at the other end of the rink...Semyon Varlamov. Give him some credit, he's steadily improved in each start he's had since returning from injury - but steadily improving and back to his old self are two very different things, and once again Varlamov faltered late in the game. His performance in the shootout wasn't bad, but that go-ahead goal by the Stars early in the third needs to be stopped, and it wasn't.
- So much for that good penalty-killing at home, right? Two penalties, two power play goals for Dallas. Granted, one was a hell of a shot by Richards and the other went in thanks to a healthy screen by Jeff Schultz, but still.
- We have a tendency to sometimes get a little overdramatic here in CapsNation, and I'm sure to many it seemed like Alex Ovechkin would never score again - especially after he was repeatedly stoned in the first by Marty Turco. Rest easy, folks...Ovie's back. His first goal was a nasty wrister on the power play, his second a bit of late theatrics to tie up the game and tie Stephane Robidas into a pretzel. Those hoping for a Washington Hat Trick in the shootout, however, were probably disappointed.
- After two very good outings in his first games as a Cap, Joe Corvo stumbled a bit tonight, on the ice for all three goals against and making a bad defensive play in overtime.
- Big night in the faceoff circle for the Caps, as Eric Belanger finished 9-for-15 (60%), Brendan Morrison went 10-for-15 (67%) and Nicklas Backstrom won a respectable 46% of the whopping 24 draws he took.
- The second line of Semin, Belanger and Brooks Laich has taken a bit of time to gel, but they were very strong tonight and had some of the better chances. Both Laich and Semin finished the night with 7 shots on goal, and Semin in particular looked more focused than he has in weeks.
- With guys like Mike Ribeiro, Alexander Semin and Brad Richards in the same game, the expectation heading into the shootout would have been for a series of dekes, fakes and dazzling displays. Um...oops. Richards scored a decent goal, but Ribeiro lost the puck and Semin tried to put himself into the net rather than the puck - a move that even drew a comical "what the...?" look to the goal cam by Turco. The prettiest Caps shootout tally came courtesy of Nicklas Backstrom, who should always, ALWAYS take part in the gimmick.
For long stretches tonight the Caps showed the offensive skill that makes them one of the League's elite scoring powers; when they had the puck they were dominant, and were it not for a brilliant performance by Marty Turco they would have put the game well out of reach early.
However, for a few stretches in between they showed why defense, penalty killing and goaltending continue to be their Achilles' Heel. These things will take time to sort out, and there will be stumbles along the way as the Caps continue to incorporate their new players into the lineup and recover from the Olympic break.
With 16 games left, time is running out to do just that.