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Recap: Senators 6, Caps 5

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

It just doesn't get much harder than this. Heading into the second half of back-to-back games while being on the road is tough; it gets tougher when dealing with dual letdowns of having an historic winning streak snapped last night, in overtime, after yet again clawing their way back into a game. It's an explanation for why the Capitals came out as flat as they did - but certainly not an excuse. Not even close.

However, if you're looking for a microcosm of tonight's game, look no further than the man wearing #28 in white.

Because this game had everything that frustrates us - and amazes us - about Alexander Semin, with the inconsistent goodness scattered pretty evenly throughout the lineup. There was the sleepwalking and the power, the offensive skill and the undisciplined play. We want this team following the lead of a Russian guy named Alex...but maybe they should stick to the guy wearing the 'C'.

Ten more notes on the game:

  • So about that Semin guy - quite possibly the most frustrating player to watch in the history of mankind, and this game was just one more reason why. He looked positively disinterested for most of the first period (although so did his team), then scored two quick and nasty goals in the span of about five minutes before polishing off the hat trick in the third. The only thing he didn't do was take a penalty.
  • The Senators may have the league's worst power play, but even a 24th-ranked penalty kill should be aware anytime someone as dangerous as Daniel Alfredsson is on the ice. Alfredsson strolled completely unharmed into open ice and the result was a goal - even if it was one that Varlamov will absolutely want back.
  • What was Semin doing on that first Jason Spezza goal? For that matter, what was Tyler Sloan doing? Hell of a shot by Spezza, but again, he shouldn't have been allowed to take it.
  • For the first time in quite awhile, the top line of Ovechkin, Backstrom and Knuble was kept pretty quiet. They finished the night with just one assist and 4 shots on goal, although Knuble's rear end certainly deserved an assist for providing a screen on Schultz's tally.
  • A huge reason for that quiet night, of course, was the fact that Anton Volchenkov was on the ice just about every time 8-19-22 was. He is nothing short of an elite and incredible shot-blocking machine, a shadow whose body and stick made certain Ovechkin was nullified and his linemates silenced. Volchenkov had 11 of Ottawa's 29 blocked shots, including most (if not all) of the 8 that Ovechkin had blocked. The Caps, meanwhile, had just 4 blocked shots total.
  • Usually when a team only takes two penalties it's a good thing, particularly when facing the League's worst power play. But Brendan Morrison's infraction late in the first was an unnecessary offensive zone call and Ovechkin's was one of the dumber ones he'll ever take, whistled for interference as he "innocently" shoved Fisher's stick away from him on the ice. And oh yeah, the Senators and their League-worst power play scored on both.
  • Tomas Fleischmann's evening was less than spectacular, to put it mildly. He scored on a weak shot but was on the ice for all four even strength goals by the Senators, finished a -3 for the night and was 2 for 11 in the faceoff dot - the only Cap to win fewer than 50% of his draws. 
  • The rationale behind the Erskine-Sloan pairing probably went something like this: okay, they're going to mess up so it's better to limit the disaster to one out of every three defensive pairings and not spread it around. Maybe a good idea in theory, but in practice it was scary. And awful. And scary awful. 
  • Semyon Varlamov hasn't played at the NHL level in awhile, so a little rust early on was understandable - and when he came up with some huge, timely stops in the second it seemed like he'd returned to form. But then the third period happened...ouch. Still, good for Bruce to keep him in there all game; the only way to shake off the rust is to play, and it certainly didn't feel like the Caps were going to win this one early on anyway.
  • Hey, Jeff Schultz scored! What a rocket of a shot for the ol' double nickel, eh?
So the Caps pick up their second straight loss after appearing to be invincible for over a month, and they do so with an identical 6-5 final score - only this time there's no last minute magic, no overtime, no consolation point. Once again there's offense (including yet another hat trick) but no defense, and large chunks of time in which they simply did not show up. The loss tonight marks the first time the Caps have failed to pick up a point since early January, and they were overdue for a game like that. 

And yet there should be no panic. The Caps have been playing at an elite level for such a long time, building up a nice cushion between themselves and the rest of the East while keeping pace with the top teams out West. A few losses here and there are frustrating, partly because we've all become accustomed to winning, but they happen. And they should happen when the team doesn't play well enough to win if only to remind this team that the things they've been glossing over, the system they've ignored, are important and necessary. Better now than in April or May, for sure.

Being brought down to earth is a good thing, and whether or not they go into the Olympic Break with a win or not, the bottom line is that there are ways to right the ship - and plenty of time in which to do it. 

Game Highlights: