After stealing two points in Winnipeg and getting a much more solid win in Edmonton, the Caps have had a somewhat eventful start to this lengthy road trip. Next up? A rematch against the Calgary Flames, a team whose first meeting with the Caps was also fairly eventful.
Tonight's game had a similar feel to that early-season contest from the start, in the lopsided score if not in the excitement level... but alas, the ending would not be as happy this time, and the Caps saw their winning streak end at three games.
Ten more notes on the game:
- Slow starts have been the bane of the Caps' existence so far this season, and tonight was a perfect - and extreme - example of that, as they found themselves down 1-0 less than two minutes into the game. Nothing good is going to happen when you're trapped in your own zone for over a minute and the Caps repeatedly failed to clear the puck, leading to Kris Russell's opening tally just 1:04 into the game. Bad omen? Bad omen.
- With the Caps down by two, they were given a bit of a jumpstart when Jason Chimera - check that, red-hot goal-scorer Jason Chimera - scored on a pretty backhand play right in front of the net to get the Caps back into the game. For all the other stuff going on with the Caps right now, Chimera has been a bright spot, and he picked up his third goal in two games.
- Braden Holtby got the hook after giving up three goals in the first period. Hard to think that the reason was anything other than Adam Oates trying to kick his team in the pants, because Holtby had been stellar other than those three goals... but Holtby was clearly not happy about it and let his feelings be known. Hard to blame him, as his team continues to hang him out to dry, and a bit of a fire in the belly is good. But maybe direct that fire at your defense and not your coach, eh, Braden?
- Not a good night for the second line tonight, with Brooks Laich and Martin Erat getting especially beat up in both pure plus-minus and in Corsi/Fenwick. Not really what you want out of those guys.
- If poor defensive nights by the second line were unexpected in a bad way, a goal from Aaron Volpatti was unexpected in a great way, as the fourth-liner picked up his first goal (and just his second point) as a Cap to give his team yet another glimpse of hope. Not the prettiest goal in the world, but good job by him to get to the front of the net and cash in on a rebound. And at just under five minutes of ice time, quite efficient, as well. Which is something, I guess.
- Congrats also go to Nate Schmidt, who picked up his first NHL point with an assist on Volpatti's goal... and to hometown boy Mike Green, who also assisted on the goal to give him his first even-strength regular season point since April 25 (although one could say that he scored a goal earlier in the game, with a nice tap-in to help give the Flames an early two-goal cushion... but we're not that mean.)
- Down by just one goal halfway through the third period, the Caps really needed to see their goalie make some big stops and give them a chance to complete the comeback. Unfortunately, after making some good saves earlier in the contest, Michal Neuvirth chose that exact moment to let in a dribbler from a bad angle (and kick it over the goal line himself, no less) to give the Flames back their two-goal lead. Rough, rough goal to give up at any time, but that really took away any momentum the Caps may have had.
- Calgary's defenders did a pretty good job of taking the Caps' potent top line out of the game a lot of the time, keeping them off the scoresheet for just the third time in eleven games this season. And yet even with that Alex Ovechkin managed to finish the night with 15 shot attempts. A little luck, a good bounce here or there, and perhaps this is a different night for Ovechkin and company. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps.
- The Caps finished the evening with zero power play goals for the second straight game, just the second time this season they've gone more than one game without striking with the extra man. But hey, they killed off all three of Calgary's power plays, as well, so that sparkling combined power play-penalty kill effectiveness stays in tact. Hooray?
- If the Caps aren't going to play Tom Wilson more than five minutes a game as a forward, maybe he can fill in on defense for a shift or two. They could certainly use the help on the blue line, and it's not like he's being given a chance to contribute much up front...
So after two road wins and three wins overall, the Caps drop their first game of this road trip in pretty uninspiring fashion, and now head to Vancouver to take on a hot Canucks team before heading back east. It doesn't get easier, and the defense isn't going to magically heal itself overnight... but let's hope it can be healed in two nights. Because that was ugly.