Heading into tonight's game, the Caps and Sharks had combined for exactly one goal-against to start the season, with both Braden Holtby and Antti Niemi having already pitched a shutout on the young season. The expectation then, of course, was for this to be a goaltending duel to end all goaltending duels.
Well... that's not exactly how it worked out.
Instead, the Caps fell behind by three goals on two separate occasions, then stormed back to tie it up before requiring (and ultimately losing in) a shootout to decide things. Two shutout streaks were ended, one goalie was pulled, ten goals were scored and 21 different players picked up at least a point. When all of the dust had settled, the Caps were able to salvage a point from the rubble... and probably quite a bit of game tape to review in the morning.
Ten more notes on the game:
- During training camp, Barry Trotz noted that faceoffs were a growing concern, and it had plagued the Caps in the season's first two games, as well, with the team ranking near the bottom of the League in draws (albeit in a small sample size). The importance of faceoffs can be overblown at times, but sometimes they are vital - like when the loss of a draw puts your opponent on the board first, the way it did tonight when Brooks Laich lost an offensive-zone faceoff to Joe Thornton. Thankfully that one goal would prove to be merely a drop in the ocean of offense on display in this one, from both teams, but that doesn't change the fact that the Caps' centers need to be better in the circle.
- Through the first six periods of the season, the Caps had gone shorthanded nine times and had killed off all nine, giving up just 11 shots on those nine opportunities. They came very close to extending that streak through a third game - but with three seconds remaining on their first power play of the night, the Sharks finally broke through as Matt Irwin pounced on a rebound and poked home his second of the game. That the streak ended isn't such a big deal; after all, it was bound to happen sooner or later, and the Caps have still killed off 11 of their first 12 penalties in impressive fashion. The play that did it, though, was a bad one all around, with John Carlson particularly to blame for being unable to stop Irwin's attack.
- After that, things went from bad to worse... and by "worse" we mean rock bottom, because when you give up a goal to John Scott (something only two other goalies have ever done), things ain't looking pretty. Horrible turnover by Brooks Orpik at the blue line, who was then unable to catch up to the tremendous footspeed of Scott, and a pretty awful read by Holtby, as well. That would be it for Holtby, who gave up three goals on seven shots with very little help in front of him.
- Unfortunately that wasn't it for Carlson and Orpik, who played the rest of the game and achieved the dubious distinction of being on for all five Sharks' goals (and didn't look good in the process). Carlson finished the night a minus-four, Orpik a minus-three.. rough night for 'Murica.
- Luckily the Sharks weren't the only ones cashing in with the extra man. For the second time in two games the Caps were able to score two power-play goals, with the first goal breaking the Sharks' 120-minute shutout streak, a nice passing play initiated by Nicklas Backstrom and finished off equally nicely by Marcus Johansson in front of the net (aka his office). The second goal was even more important, as Alex Ovechkin cut the Sharks' lead to one late in the third period.
- Momentum is a Myth, Part 1: When Johansson scored to cut the lead to two early in the second, it seemed like the Caps were given new life. The deficit didn't seem as big, the shutout streak was over, the crowd was back in it... and then just about two and a half minutes later the Sharks regained their three-goal lead when Joe Pavelski got a rebound to ricochet off of Eric Fehr's leg and past Justin Peters. All seemed lost.
- Momentum is a Myth, Part 2: All seemed lost? Not if you ask Mike Green, because just 68 seconds later, Green's wrist shot got through a nice screen in front by Liam O'Brien and suddenly it was 4-2... and then 34 seconds later, a wicked cycle by the top line was finished off by an even more wicked shot by Ovechkin, and it was 4-3.
- Momentum is a Myth, Part 3 and 4: The ball was in the Caps' court after that third goal... except then they let the Sharks do that thing you're never supposed to let the other team do: score early in a period. Just over two minutes into the third, to be exact, and just like that it was 5-3. If you hadn't been paying attention, you might have thought that was the insurance marker that would put the game away; if you had been, you knew better. Sure enough, a Brent Burns penalty at 13:46 of the third put the Caps on the man advantage; 23 seconds later it was 5-4. And 76 seconds and a gorgeous Troy Brouwer play later? Tie game. Momentum shmomentum.
- This game was a bit of a mess in so many ways (and for both teams at different times), but it wasn't all bad. Mike Green continued his strong play at both ends of the ice, picking up another goal and an assist on the game-tying tally by Brouwer; Andre Burakovsky also assisted on that goal, giving him four points in his first three NHL games. Alex Ovechkin's two goals gave him back-to-back multi-goal games, with five points total in those two games. And congratulations to Liam O'Brien, who picked up his first NHL point with an assist on Green's goal (and added the greatest of reactions to Mr. Scott ever, even though he probably risked life and limb to do so).
- Fun fact: the Caps and Sharks have now gone to a shootout in three straight meetings. Less-fun fact: the Caps have lost two of those three. Ah, well.
If there was ever a concern about whether the Caps would be allowed to score under the tight defensive reins of Barry Trotz, the fact that they've scored ten goals in their last three games should probably put it to rest. That said... it would be nice if the offense would be accompanied by that tight defense the way it was on Saturday, and not like whatever was on display tonight.
Thankfully for the Caps, they were able to claw their way back into the game after a potentially disastrous start, and their potentially disastrous start was well-timed to coincide with the Sharks' sudden inability to hold a lead. The Caps came out flat against a quick-starting team but managed to erase two different three-goal leads, cash in on power plays, tie the game up late and salvage a crucial point.
Pretty? Not in the slightest. Effective? Just about. Bring on the next undefeated opponent.