Back when the Capitals and Devils were Patrick Division rivals, home-and-home series weren't the rarity they are today. But nowadays, having 120 minutes of gametime scheduled over a 27-hour span is something of a throwback treat for traditionalists - all the more time for teams to adjust to one another and for animosity to fester, often generating a playoff-like feel during the regular season.
That wasn't necessarily the case in Washington on Saturday night as the Caps and Devils met for a second-straight night. But if a tight game is any indication of teams adjusting to one another, these squads certainly accomplished that, as a shootout - which the Devils won - was needed to settle the score with the teams level at two goals apiece after 65 minutes.
Ten more notes on the game:
- Not four minutes into the first game after his well-publicized benching, Alexander Semin took a penalty. For tripping. In the offensive zone. On the power play. You can't make this stuff up. It didn't seem to impact his ice time, though (he did miss some time with equipment issues in the first)... and it didn't seem to inspire him to make amends much, either.
- One minute and change after the Semin penalty expired, Mathieu Perreault was interfered with at the Jersey blueline with another Devil in possession of the puck. Luckily for the Caps, the referees must have missed it (and thus didn't blow the play dead), allowing Troy Brouwer to thieve the biscuit and go in on Johan Hedberg all alone before beating the Devs' netminder and staking the Caps to a 1-0 lead.
- According to the score sheet, Anton Volchenkov took his first of two tripping penalties at 14:10 of the first. Jason Chimera went hard to the net and deflected John Carlson's bomb from the point past Hedberg at 16:10 of the period. That's not a power-play goal, but it might as well have been, as the Devils clearly hadn't gotten back into their set defense yet with Volchenkov having barely been sprung from the box. Fun (but not really) sidenote on that goal: it was initially credited to Carlson, with a secondary assist to Roman Hamrlik. When it was changed to Chimera's goal, Hamrlik was stripped of his first assist of the season (unbelievable as that is)... for the second time (he'd had an assist taken away earlier on which became Cody Eakin's first NHL point).
- Coming into the game with just five healthy defensemen (both Mike Green and John Erskine were scratched), Bruce Boudreau skated Brooks Laich as his sixth blueliner. One by-product of that decision was losing Laich for even-strength faceoffs, so when, half-way through the second, there was a draw immediately to the right of Michal Neuvirth following a Jeff Halpern shift (which followed a shift by Nicklas Backstrom), Boudreau was essentially left with a choice between Perreault and Marcus Johansson to take the faceoff. He chose Perreault, who lost the draw clean and the referee was retrieving the puck from the Caps' net moments later. It would be Perreault's only D-zone draw of the night.
- Really? Two second period shots on goal (one on the power play and one from 50-feet out)? With a 2-0 lead after one period, the next goal was going to be huge - if the Caps scored it, they could've all but put two points in the bank. Instead, they let the Devils back in with two second-period tallies. And from the time Jersey scored their first goal to cut the lead in half until the time the Caps registered their next shot on goal, 14:18 elapsed off the clock. Not exactly the "killer instinct" Caps fans were thirsting for.
- Only four forwards - Alex Ovechkin, Chimera, Brouwer and Backstrom - had shots on goal through two periods (they combined for seven SOGs, with Chimera accounting for three of those). That includes 7:17 of power-play time and 25:11 at fives. Halpern and Semin added third period shots, but by the time the clock ran out on overtime, the Caps had just 11 shots on goal from forwards over an even 50 minutes of even-strength and power-play times. Atrocious.
- Seems as if the stingy hit-counter in Newark last night was more than compensated for tonight, as Ovechkin was credited with 11 hits. As a point of reference, he'd been credited with just 23 entering the evening. Maybe someone got a whisper in their ear that Ovi needed some hits.
- The makeshift D-corps got even makeshiftier as Hamrlik skated just three second period shifts and nary a one thereafter. As a result, Dennis Wideman got huge minutes - 33:06 - and a golden chance to win the game in overtime, and Carlson was just under 27 minutes.
- Is Seminitis contagious? The Caps got minor penalties from arguably their four most skilled skaters tonight - Semin, Ovechkin, Backstrom and Johansson, only one of which came in the defensive zone. Gotta be better-disciplined than that.
- Considering the impressive bounce-back game his fellow countryman had last night, it was Neuvirth's turn after a rough outing against the Stars, and he was very solid. While the Caps sort out their blueline, offensive schemes and power-play, it'd be nice if strong goaltending was once again a constant.
And so it's off to Nashville after taking three of a possible four points from the Devils, but looking a bit less impressive than that might indicate. The Caps have work to do.