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Capitals vs. Devils Recap: Blown Lead Sinks Caps

Washington loses in overtime despite holding a two-goal lead with 11 minutes left in the third period.

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Sometimes it's better to be lucky than good. Take the Caps, for example. Heading into Saturday night's game against the Devils, Washington had scored just four five-on-five goals in their previous five games while getting brutally out-possessed, outplayed and outscored at even-strength over that span. And yet, the Caps had won three of those five games and picked up a point via a shootout loss in a fourth. Granted, scoring nine power-play goals wasn't necessarily lucky, but the Caps haven't been particularly good overall lately, and it takes neither a degree in statistics nor a crystal ball to know that luck-driven results are more likely to turn around over time than those fed by quality play - those five-game results are nice, but don't count on similar good fortune going forward.

On Saturday night, the numbers came home to roost a bit, as the Caps got out-possessed and outplayed (they gave up 37 shots on goal to the team that entered the night dead last in the League in that category with 25.5), and, ultimately, outscored, dropping a 5-4 decision to the Devils in overtime.

Ten more notes on the game:

  • The Caps got a power play near the midpoint of the first period, and the first goal of the game came via the power play on a rocket one-timer from the faceoff circle to the goalie's right. Unfortunately for the Caps, they didn't score on that early chance (they couldn't get much going with Travis Zajac off) but the Devils did on their first power play a few minutes later when Marek Zidlicky rifled one home from The Alex Ovechkin Spot™. It was Jersey's first shot of the game, 11:26 in.
  • That goal was scored with Tom Wilson serving a minor for high-sticking. Had he been suspended two games for his hit on Brayden Schenn, that goal never happens. Thanks a lot, Brendan Shanahan.
  • It's apparently pretty trendy to be very down on Braden Holtby, but even while he works his way through a tough stretch, he's making his share of super saves (like this one) to keep the Caps in games. And do yourself a favor and don't even look at his goals against average, because that's more about his team than his play - entering Saturday's game, Holtby had a .917 save percentage, better than New Jersey's Cory Schneider's .915, but Schneider was giving up nearly a full goal per game less than Holtby. The difference, of course, is the number of shots allowed... and that's on the team, not the goalie. (H/t @DrivingPlay)
  • Jason Chimera tied the game at one half-way through the second when Martin Brodeur fell asleep while watching Matlock reruns or something that old people do. Chimera got two shots off on a wrap-around, the second one finding its way into the net before Marty (or any of his teammates) could tell the Caps winger to get off his lawn.
  • Four-and-a-half minutes later, a beautiful passing sequence culminated in Mikhail Grabovski converting a smart Eric Fehr feed from nearly the same place as Chimera (with equally miserable defensive coverage by the Devs). Two goals, both even strength, from down low, by other-than-the-top-line.
  • Make that three. With under a minute left in the period, the third line rushed the puck up ice, Mike Green put a shot on net that Brodeur couldn't control and Joel Ward was there to pop home the rebound (and give Martin Erat two assists on the night). Is this real life?
  • With a 3-1 lead headed into the third period, the Caps would have appeared to have been in good shape - they were 11-0-1 when leading after two this season after going 19-3-0 last season. But an Ovechkin interference penalty just before the five-minute mark put the Devils on the power play and good ol' what's-his-name halved the lead, taking a pass from behind Holtby's cage and making no mistake about it.
  • Just over two-and-a-half minutes after that, the League's reigning MVP did what MVPs do, scoring in his fourth-straight game, this time on a wrister from way downtown. Karl Alzner will get the only assist on the goal, but Marcus Johansson made a strong play down low to force the turnover that ended up on Alzner's twig. The scorekeeper may not recognize the play, but we did, MoJo. What the scorekeeper does recognize, however, is that Ovechkin now has 30 goals in 33 games played which is pretty incredible.
  • Oh, hey there Devils goal 1:14 later. Shocking. And then a couple of minutes later the game was tied after Holtby played the puck up the boards (poorly) and right to Zajac, who put it towards the cage for Dainius Zubrus to deflect past Holtby. It was unbelievably believable and unreal-ly real, and Holtby simply needs to be better than he's been for a while now.
  • Regulation would end tied at four and the Devils made quick work of things in overtime, as Andy Greene redirected a rebound into the net off of his... stick? Whatever. It counted. Game over Greene.

The Caps have been lucky for a while now, and it's great to have those points in the bank, but that kind of good fortune is simply unsustainable. When all of it regresses, the Caps are what they are - a team with a great power play and little else that will struggle to consistently win games when their goaltending isn't white-hot. Same stuff, different day...

Game highlights: