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Recap: Hurricanes 6, Caps 3

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

Without a degree in psychology, it's hard to know what the problem was for the Capitals tonight.

Was it the sudden shock of a trade that sent two teammates (including the captain) to Columbus just hours before the game? Was it a hangover from defeating two elite teams in a row, or a case of playing down to the opponent? Was it just their way of proving that their status atop the Southeast is not just because they beat up on Southeast teams?

Maybe it was a combination of all three - or maybe it was just an off night for the boys. Whatever it was, the Caps looked flat from the opening faceoff. And despite some brief flashes of energy and three goals of their own, just didn't have enough in the tank to keep up with a Hurricanes team that came to play.

Ten more notes on the game:

  • As bad as this game was, the worst part was actually right at the beginning - so you just knew it was going to be a keeper. Penalties, bad passing, poor coverage, just four measly shots on goal, all of which added up to a disheartening three-goal hole after twenty minutes. Not the start the Caps were looking for after a more than eventful day, that's for sure, and certainly not the start we're accustomed to seeing.
  • Not to be lost in the carnage of the first, however, was a pretty strong penalty killing effort that did away with most of the prolonged 5-on-3. Brooks Laich, Karl Alzner, Quintin Laing and Boyd Gordon led a fairly incredible group of PKers that sacrificed their bodies time and time again. They fell just short of killing it off entirely, undone by being out just a bit too long, but a workmanlike effort nonetheless.
  • What in the name of all that is good and holy was John Erskine doing out there tonight? Certainly not playing defense - or at least not doing it well. Yikes.
  • Not exactly a goaltending duel for the ages tonight, as both Cam Ward and Jose Theodore were victimized for goals of the soft, fluky and dribbling kind. The team in front of him wasn't exactly helpful, but Theo deserves the blame on a couple of those - his rebound control was awful. Neuvirth's the other night was described as velcro; Theo's was...well, whatever the opposite of velcro is.
  • We're not getting into the whole "how can it be both diving AND holding" argument tonight - no one has the energy. The real question about the matching minors that came against Brett Carson and Brooks Laich is how was Laich's tumble actually seen as a dive? 
  • On the same token, it's hard to see how Mike Green's "hooking" penalty in the first was actually a hook and not a tap. Make no mistake - the officiating is not why the Caps lost tonight. But that call was a little weak.
  • One of the main problems with the Caps, besides a general sense of gloom and lethargy that hung over them from the start, was a lack of cohesion. They didn't play as a team but as several individuals who happened to show up wearing the same outfit (how embarrassing) - too much individual play, especially when trailing, will never lead to a good outcome.
  • It was certainly nice to see Boyd Gordon back tonight, and he had a typically Gordon-esque night, with some gritty shifts and excellent penalty killing in what was his third game in three nights.
  • Nicklas Backstrom and Brendan Morrison were a combined 10-for-35 on faceoffs, which is a cringeworthy 28.5%. Can't even blame that all on Brind'amour because he only took 4 draws, although he did win 3 of those...and still managed to finish a -1 on the night.
  • Mike Green skated just over 30 minutes tonight - too much. Also too much? That shift he took lasting over five minutes in the second period. Even with a penalty called in the middle of it, that's a long freakin' shift.
There are certainly some choice four-letter words you could use to describe tonight's performance. 

But whatever the reason for this loss, we can take heart in the fact that it's just one game. We've seen better - much better - from this Caps team, and the Hurricanes have shown time and time again that they're not a team to be taken lightly despite where they sit in the standings. Embarrassing, yes. Catastrophic? No.

If anything, losing a game like this is a good thing. It's not a result of the same mistakes that have haunted them, but rather just a bad game and a bad loss where nothing was going right. Those nights happen - better now than in the spring, certainly. If the perfect division record falls by the wayside, so be it; it was likely going to anyway.

And now the Caps head to California with a new teammate, and with the embarrassment of the loss and the lessons learned tucked in the overhead compartments. That makes them a very dangerous team heading into the Shark Tank - and we know just how dangerous they can be.

Game highlights: