Coming off arguably their worst loss of the season— a shutout, to their rival (a label heavily reinforced by thousands of NBC's dollars and thousands of Caps' fans tears), in front of a national audience— the Caps took the ice against ceux qui habitent Montréal with a chance to take a perfectly productive four of six points on the three game homestand.
But Montreal struck three times in the first period, and even in a game that turned out to be wide open and full of chances, the early deficit proved too much to overcome. The game ended 3-2 Habs.
Ten more notes on the game:
- With back to back games, and the team crossing the the northern border tonight, Michal Neuvirth gave Braden Holtby a Friday night breather. It became quickly apparent that Neuvirth would be given no reprieve from the nightly shot onslaught that's plagued Holtby. Still, allowing 3 goals on the first 12 shots— even if one was the result of an awful giveaway, the next a deflection from the highest-possible legal angle, and the third on the power play— isn't the best way to keep your team in it. Neuvirth was solid the rest of the way, but the damage was already done.
- After missing a few games with the ever-ambiguous lower-body injury, Mike Green returned to action tonight, paired with Alexander Urbom. Things got off to a rocky start for these two when Mikhail Grabovski mishandled a breakout pass from Urbom and Travis Moen made 'em pay for it. Green was pretty quiet the rest of the night, but it's good to see him back out there regardless.
- The "second" line of Martin Erat, Brooks Laich, and Troy Brouwer has been a story in the district, and not a particularly positive one. Tonight it was Martin Erat taking duties at the dot— and their possession did improve, actually finishing positive— but the goal lights stayed off for this triumvirate, as is becoming the norm. Consider that each member of this line spent a portion of the game in the sin bin (noting that the penalties on Erat and Laich were atrocious calls), and that they failed to generate a shot on a three on one, and you've got another forgettable outing.
- Daniel Briere's 4th goal of the season was the 7th goal the Caps had allowed since scoring one themselves. To continue a theme from Wednesday's recap: WOOF.
- The Caps would break that streak by the time the period ended, and by who else and how else than by Alexander Ovechkin on the power play? It was Ovi's 18th of the year. He'd at his 19th on a slick slot-deflection in the third, and his 9th in 9 games since returning from some injury maintenance back at the beginning of the month. Despite missing a few games, Ovechkin once again finds himself back where he belongs: atop the goal ledger. That Ovechkin, so hot right now.
- Speaking of that Ovechkin goal, that's a pretty svelte timeout from Adam Oates right before. Without it, Ovechkin's probably not on the ice as the period winds down.
- Another point on that power play: it was John Carlson, not Mike Green, captaining the top of the diamond with the first unit. Somewhat surprising to see, given that's traditionally been Green's role, and it's traditionally yielded pretty good results.
- As good as the Chimera-Grabovski-Ward line has been over the past few weeks, tonight marks their second consecutive game without a point together, and with a goal against. Granted, two games is modest slide (if it's really a slide at all), but with the answer to problems that exist higher up the depth chart pivoting this line, when do you start the conversation about mixing it up?
- Three breakaways for the Caps in the span of seven-or-so minutes. Add another shorthanded one from Joel Ward in the third. No goals. Aren't these guys supposed to be good at the shootout or something?
- After taking 5 minor penalties, there are now only two teams in the league who have been short-handed more times than the Capitals. If ever there was a good year for a bigtime penalty kill unit...
Despite showing a little more life than they did two nights ago (which isn't saying much), the Caps come away empty handed against Montreal to end an ugly homestand with a sour-tasting nightcap. Thankfully they won't have long to dwell on it, as they skate into Toronto tomorrow night, with a two-game losing streak as their heaviest baggage.