I suppose it's fitting that on a night when the puck was bouncing all over the ice, the game would be decided on fortuitous carom.
But lest the Caps or their fans convince themselves that they were the victims of bad luck last night in Manhattan, a quick glance at the third period score sheet will surely render that notion a fleeting one:
An embarrassing dive in front of his own net by a veteran player (and for all of you who don't understand "how they call the dive and the penalty," this one was for you - no Ranger went with Poti); a silly and selfish penalty drawn way too easily out of the team's best player; a delay of game (natch); and Shaone Morrisonn's brutal penalt(ies) du jour.
Credit the penalty killers with earning last night's point, as they snuffed out all six Rangers penalties (9:43 of extra man ice time, 0:36 of which was 5-on-3), but when you're in the box for 9:25 of a tied third period, it's impossible to get your best player his minutes or generate much flow offensively.
So yeah, the Caps got beaten by a bad bounce. But perhaps the real luck was in making it to that point to begin with.
Some thoughts on the game:
- Mike Green had an uneven night - two great goals, a plus-three rating (up to +27 on the season), four hits (including a biggie or two) and 28:06 of ice time. But his decision to go to the bench rather than follow the play into his defensive zone as he exited the penalty box (after serving one of those "good" slashing penalties - his goalie was dead to right) was a proximate cause of the Paul Mara goal. On the whole, of course, we'll take it.
- Eric Fehr continues to make the most of his ice time, with a goal, a helper, and a plus-two rating in just 12:51 (thanks, again, to those third period penalties). The "Triple F" line of Fehr, Sergei Fedorov and Tomas Fleischmann had two goals, three assists and a plus-eight rating on the night.
- The "Triple B" line of Donald Brashear, Jay Beagle and Matt Bradley had two fights and nine hits, but I'm not sure what purpose either of those fights served other than to energize a team desperate to show some spark (hint: not the Caps).
- Alex Ovechkin was credited with 13 hits, but was pretty well contained offensively. Ovechkin-Nicklas Backstrom-Michael Nylander? Not working. At all. Seriously.
Jose Theodore was very good in the third period and lucky at other times during the game. Still, giving up four goals to a team that can't score is ultimately on him (and I'm sure he'd like to, say, cut off the cross-crease pass on the Naslund goal, if he had it to do over again). And not knowing the rule on the shootout winner? Inexcusable (and obviously the result of not playing enough video games).
- Back to Mo - he now has 57 PIMs in 45 games after having 63 in 76 last season (in two-and-a-half more minutes per game). His play on the Markus Naslund goal was simply atrocious, but hey, he had an assist and a plus-one rating, so it wasn't all bad (on the scoresheet, at least).
- When I said the Caps miss Viktor Kozlov, I wasn't even considering shootouts, where they use him every time out. And speaking of the shootout, I know AO's all-time record, but I still say he has to be used and in one of the first two slots - you wouldn't want to potentially lose a shootout without him even getting a chance, would you?
- Karl Alzner had a tough night with a minus-two rating and only 14:05 of ice time, and a fairly inexplicable misplay on (I believe) the Lauri Korpikoski goal.
- They killed penalties well, but the trio of Brooks Laich, David Steckel and Boyd Gordon combined for a minus-eight rating, no shots on goal, and a minus-26 Corsi rating (and didn't even win 50% of their faceoffs).
- Tom Poti was not Tom Poti.
- Is Jeff Schultz the quietest +18 you've ever seen?
In some ways, it would be nice if the Panthers and Hurricanes were a little closer in the standings (be careful what I wish for, I know), because the Caps' biggest problem right now isn't the defense or goaltending. It isn't the penalty kill or the power play. It isn't secondary scoring or team health and depth. It's focus, and it's the result of having to play out the rest of the schedule while waiting for the playoffs to roll around. But if they wait until then to start trying to string together a consistent effort, they may find it harder than they think.
Elsewhere 'Round the Rinks: