[AP Recap - GameCenter - Game Summary - Event Summary]
The Caps came into Prudential Center tonight riding a four-game winning streak and jumped out to a quick lead, denting Martin Brodeur and the Devils for two quick goals by the five minute mark of the first period. It seemed like it was the start of a lopsided rout, a night when Brodeur would look human and the Alex Ovechkin-less offense would continue to pummel their opponents.
Instead they continue to prove that a 2-goal lead is the most dangerous lead in hockey - especially against the Devils - and bookend Ovechkin's absence with two losses to New Jersey. Thus endeth the winning streak. Thus endeth their time atop the East. And three games to the Devils all end in disappointing losses. At least there's only one left...
Ten more thoughts on the game:
- Jose Theodore looked pretty good through twenty minutes. After that, though...let's just say that between the final forty tonight and Varlamov's performance last night, the battle for #1 is alive and well.
- Playing back-to-back nights may not have been the reason for the loss, but it certainly didn't help matters, especially in the physical side of things. Six hits total, with no more than one apiece, is a telling stat - and also a sure sign that without Ovechkin, John Erskine and Milan Jurcina, the physical element to this team takes a drastic hit.
- There weren't many bright spots tonight, but Brendan Morrison's work tonight - and pretty much every game since arriving - was one of them. He was one of the few who seemed to have some jump in his step and picked up time on both special teams; he also finished a dominant 11-for-15 in the faceoff circle.
- Not a thoroughly undisciplined game for the team, with only three minors taken, but it's the second straight game that they've taken a penalty for too many men on the ice. And while New Jersey doesn't take a ton of penalties (probably out of fear of waking up next to a horse's head), drawing only one penalty is not good enough.
- Tomas Fleischmann's goal in the first was a great power play strike as he continues to be hot. But Flash also finished -4 and had one of just two (recorded) giveaways for the team.
- It wasn't the worst game Alexander Semin has played this year. We'll reserve that distinction for the last time these two teams met. However, his attempted cross-ice pass to no one that got picked off for a breakaway goal the other way was one of his more boneheaded plays of the season.
- It would have been nice if Chris Clark how nice. But hey, at least the Caps kept him from getting that elusive milestone shutout...right? had continued to look human for all sixty minutes. Really nice. Ask
- Boyd Gordon re-injured his back in the second period and didn't return. At this point, it's just more of the same.
- It does open the door for a longer stay in DC for Mathieu Perreault, another player who had a decent night despite the team's overall struggles. He's just a little bundle of energy, a tiny one-man wrecking crew, a miniature French-Canadian Energizer Bunny. Somewhere up in the press box, Ovechkin is proud.
- With Mike Knuble in the lineup, there seemed to be a consistent net presence - regardless of whether it was Knuble, Chris Clark, Brooks Laich, Eric Fehr, or even Tomas Fleischmann, someone was always stationed in the crease. Without him, the Caps seemed to forget how to drive the net; considering Brodeur's going to stop just about everything he sees, and he was seeing everything, that pretty much sealed the Caps' fate.
Three games against the Devils, three losses. Three opportunities to take a firm grip on first place in the East, three opportunities blown. And for the first time this year, the Caps fall by a margin of three goals. Let's hope the pending return ofGame highlights: sparks something in the team - because we have to do this back-to-back thing again next weekend, and it doesn't get any easier.