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Recap: Canucks 3, Caps 2

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[AP Recap - GameCenter - Game Summary - Event Summary]

Just three nights after putting together a dominant team win over Colorado, the Capitals failed to connect, failed to perform as a team for 60 minutes and failed to collect two points. 

It wasn't all bad. A few individuals played well, and the first period in particular was filled with energy and a ton of cycling in front of Roberto Luongo - along with a 2-1 lead. But we all knew that a one goal lead against a Canucks team that can certainly score was just not going to hold without a superhuman defensive performance tonight, and the Caps had neither the offensive mojo nor the superpowers to hold off Vancouver for 60 minutes.

Despite all that, there's no question that the theme of the night was missed opportunities. It started early with Backstrom whiffing on an open net way back when it was still a 0-0 game. Then there were the blown chances with the extra man, the failed penalty shot, the extended attack time in the first period - all of which could have changed the course of the game. They didn't, and the game goes into the books as a loss.

Ten more notes on the game:

  • The power play was abysmal. There's no other way to look at it. The Caps were trying to be too fancy and too fine in their passing, and while Vancouver did a good job of slowing them down, the Caps certainly didn't test them much. And here's a boggling stat - with all the firepower the Caps have, they generated one - one - shot in 8 minutes with the extra man...while giving up 3 shots to the shorthanded Canucks.
  • Most of the top forwards for the Caps looked off tonight, but the exception was definitely Alexander Semin. As invisible as his teammates were, he seemed to be everywhere and finished the night with a goal, 7 shots, 4 others that missed or were blocked, a takeaway and a great shorthanded chance. 
  • It was a weird night for the goalies. Both gave up fluky goals and had some big rebounds, but both also made some high quality saves - Theodore early on, Luongo late in the game. Luongo ultimately won the battle, such as it was, but it's tough to pin too much of the blame for the loss on Theodore all the same.
  • Karl Alzner had exactly the kind of night Karl Alzner needed to have - calm, cool and solid, despite playing his first NHL game in his hometown. Just over 15 minutes of work and a solid, if quiet, performance for Alzner. 
  • Also quiet tonight was Alex Ovechkin...except for him, quiet equals bad. There were brief moments, a few moves here and there, some sneaky shots that are just vintage Ovechkin - but mostly he was invisible, and didn't have a shot on goal until late in the third. Whether it was some nagging injury or the coverage by the Canucks or a combination, it's hard to say. Even superhuman beings have off nights, though, right?
  • Of all the people who would have stepped up on a night like this, Chris Clark might not have been anyone's first (or second...or tenth) choice. He did have an excellent night, though - when he was on the ice. So why did he only get 8:31 of ice time?
  • The whole game seemed to be in anticipation mode, with both teams keenly aware of the firepower on the other side and therefore hesitant to make mistakes. Lots of neutral zone play, lots of tiny battles along the boards, and not a ton of shots on either side - especially for Vancouver, who finished the night with just 20.
  • Nicklas Backstrom was 10-for-16 (63%) in the faceoff circle tonight. He was the only Cap to finish above 50%, and the only Cap who took more than two draws to finish above 40%. And no, none of that is a typo.
  • As visible and effective as Kyle Wilson was the other night in Denver, he was the complete opposite tonight - and somehow managed to be a -1 in just over 8 minutes of work. One up, one down. He's fitting in just fine.
  • Is it crazy to say that John Erskine had a pretty decent night? He seemed to be moving his feet (as much as Erskine ever moves his feet) and was in good position more often than not. 
So blown opportunities lead to a blown game on the road - and there's no rest for the wicked, as the Caps return to action tomorrow night against a struggling Oiler team.

And maybe that's a good thing. Maybe getting right back in the saddle will erase the bitter taste this one leaves in all of our mouths. Maybe they'll be as angry and frustrated as we are and want to make up for it against a team that's ripe for the picking. Maybe they'll take their performance in the opening twenty minutes against Vancouver and stretch it into a full game.

They'll have to try - because sitting on top of the league like they've been doing, there's only one way to go. No ifs, ands, or maybes about it.
Game highlights: