The Washington Capitals faced the Pittsburgh Penguins looking to build off of their win against the Philadelphia Flyers. Unlike the Flyers, the Penguins are not a team that is playing below their talent level. It should come as no surprise, then, that the Penguins did not let the Caps off the hook the way the Flyers did. Instead of building off of their win and, dare I say, building towards a winning streak, the Caps took another step back tonight. It wasn't as poorly played as the score might indicate, a couple of goals Braden Holtby wants back made the score look a little more lopsided, but it also wasn't good enough.
Ten more notes on the game:
- John Carlson has been on the ice for 20 goals this season. There are 11 teams that have not given up 20 goals on the season. But, hey, at least he buried another no-look shot (and welcomed Tomas Vokoun back to the Verizon Center).
- Speaking of that no-look shot, that's about the only reason you'd know Nicklas Backstrom suited up for the Caps tonight (unless you were watching him lose defensive zone draws cleanly right before a Penguins goal or fanning on shots). His assist charitably masks an otherwise brutal performance. I can sympathize, though. I'm no good without my ten hours sleep either.
- Alex Ovechkin came out fired up and was hitting everything that moved. His hit on Brandon Sutter helped free up the puck for Mike Ribeiro and started the passing sequence that ended in Mike Green's goal. The energy was there, but the fact of the matter is the Caps need Ovechkin to produce on the scoresheet. When Ovechkin can't just walk around Deryk Engelland, you know something is wrong.There's not much to say that hasn't been said (most of it on the NBC first intermission report), it's just a matter of when (if?) it will click.
- That shot by Mike Green was really something else. He was still in the process of pivoting to get his footing, and the pass was a little in front of his wheelhouse. That wasn't textbook form, but he adjusted to the pass and got a lot on that shot. Just a game after I asked for him to shoot the puck more, he reminds everyone why. That said, I would prefer not to see Green get smashed into the glass and then get up to score every game. He won't survive many more games like that.
- Another bad second period completely changed the game. The Caps were in the game through the first period, if seemingly just holding on at times. But the dam broke in the second period. After the fortuitous goal from Carlson to tie it, the Caps were given a power play opportunity. There was good possession, but they were unable to convert. Right after the power play ended, the Penguins took a strong offensive shift, and several Caps (looking at you Marcus Johannson, John Carlson) were running around. It was a poor defensive shift, but Holtby should have stopped the shot from Kris Letang.
- Normally teams send out their big guns right after their PK ended. I thought, at the time, that it was odd that the Pens came out with Sutter's line, rather than Crosby's line. After the goal Crosby came out with Evgeny Malkin and Chris Kunitz. And they scored (another) goal under Holtby's glove hand that he should have stopped. There was no reason to think this Caps team was going to overcome a two-goal deficit (for the first time in the season), but there's always hope, right?
- Well, until the Pens got their next power play opportunity, Karl Alzner broke a stick at the worst possible time, and Malkin exploited it with a beautiful saucer pass to Kunitz. 5-2, and the route was on.
- But... there's a chance... late in the second period the Caps had a chance to bring the deficit back to two... oh, Troy Brouwer unable to convert on an open net? You don't say.
- Early in the third the Caps got back into the game with a power play goal. Two observations: It's funny that the PP only works when there's a total breakdown. It's the only time it's not predictable and the players have to start skating to make up for the breakdown. Second, if Ribeiro and Backstrom can be down by the crease mucking it up, I wonder if there are any other players that may want to follow that cue.
- Tomas Kundratek hasn't been flashy but he's got more poise with the puck than most of the rest of the defensive corps. He doesn't have the name recognition, but I bet he's not the first scratch when (if?) Orlov returns.
Another game down, another wasted chance to build off of an encouraging performance. We're now 20% of the way into the 2013 season, and while there's still time, the situation is not encouraging. There has to be something more than "there's still, mathematically, time for the team to rebound" to make fans think they are going to rebound. There's gotta be something in the play, some improvement, maybe even two consecutive steps forward. But with each passing game, the reality of this team right now is that the draft lottery is more likely than the playoffs. Coming up they have rematch dates with the Toronto Maple Leafs and these Pittsburgh Penguins. Is now the time they turn it around?