Over the course of the season the Capitals have become well-versed in playing tight, one-goal contests and have largely come out on the winning side of things. Tonight wasn't one of those nights, but it wasn't exactly for lack of effort - just a few missed passes, missed shots, missed chances and the odd missed call or the outcome of this would have been very different.
To come away with a loss is hardly satisfying. But at the same time there's comfort to be found in the compete level tonight, from start to finish. It doesn't take the place of two points, but it's still a nice parting gift.
Ten more notes on the game:
- In the dying seconds of a one-goal game, the Caps managed to squeeze the tying marker past Andrew Raycroft...only to have it washed out because of incidental contact. It's a call that, along with goaltender interference calls (and non-calls) has seemed to haunt this team in recent years. And if Alex Ovechkin had legitimately pushed a Dallas defender into Raycroft, it would have been correct. Unless he grew an invisible third arm that had amazing double-jointed flexibility, however, he didn't and it wasn't. Tough way to end this one.
- After a few days off, Michal Neuvirth returned to the net for his rebuttal to the recent play of Semyon Varlamov. And for most of the game he was making all the stops he needed to (and a few he shouldn't have been able to) to keep his team in it. Unfortunately it was one he probably should have had - albeit one that possibly got a little help from Karl Alzner's stick - that deflated any momentum from the game-tying goal twenty seconds earlier and that turned into the eventual game-winner.
- Marc Crawford said prior to the game that he was putting Raycroft in against the NHL's top team to give him "a huge challenge".. Well, he rose to the occasion and then some, turning aside 37 of the 38 shots fired at him by the Caps and proving to be the difference in the game. But that was predictable, wasn't it?
- He probably would have preferred to get a win in his debut, but Scott Hannan's first game as a Capital was a good one. In just under twenty minutes of work, Hannan proved that he was what we thought he was - a solid, steady defender who is willing to sacrifice his body (to the tune of four blocked shots) and throw a few hits (three of 'em, to be exact) while being a good penalty killer (4:50 of shorthanded ice time, no goals against). If that's what he brings every night? Sold.
- It's either a hard-hitting game or a full moon when Jeff Schultz racks up four hits. We'll give Sarge his due and go with the former, as the two teams were credited with a combined sixty-six hits. Pass the ice packs, please.
- Of course, one of those hits landed that goon Schultz in the box after he took exception (and rightly so) to a slash that went undetected by the refs. And while it feels like an excuse to blame the refs, and while the Caps don't lose this game if they capitalize on some of the missed chances, the officiating was once again fairly lopsided and the Caps doubled up the Stars in minor penalties.
- One penalty that we'll take eight times a week and twice on Sunday is the kind of penalty Ovechkin took at the end of the first period. As the period came to a close he earned a trip to the sin bin when he launched himself at Adam Burish, who had leveled Marcus Johansson seconds before. Generally picking a fight after a clean hit is a pet peeve (although this was borderline clean at first and looked nasty in the moment); still, it was nice to see the captain acting like...well, a captain.
- Alex Ovechkin is never scoring a goal ever again. /antijinx
- It feels like just about every night one of the Caps' defensemen goes down with an injury - so it was a scary moment indeed when John Erskine seemed to fall into the boards awkwardly and later disappeared from both the ice and the bench. Luckily he returned to finish the game, but we're about a day away from just bubble-wrapping the entire blueline to prevent further scares.
- Always fun to see an arena whose ice makes the Verizon Center look like Rexall Place, isn't it? The puck was bouncing so much it looked like a superball out there...and let's just say a drinking game that required a shot every time someone fell would end up being incredibly messy.
So the Caps wrap up their mini-road trip with what amounts to a relatively good loss against a tough opponent. There were opportunities squandered throughout and that will need to be addressed, as will the parade to the penalty box - and at some point you probably want the best player in the League to get a goal or twelve - but ultimately it's one of those losses that falls into the category of "sometimes the other guys win".
And that's okay.