For almost 50 minutes, the Washington Capitals and the New Jersey Devils fought a tactical battle through all three zones, neither team getting much in the way of opportunities. As the minutes ticked by it looked as if it would take a defection, a seeing-eye shot...or a mistake.
A mistake is precisely what decided this game, and it came in the tenth minute of the third period. Devils' defenseman Eric Gelinas skated the puck to the red line and dumped it into the Caps' end. Braden Holtby circled behind his net and stopped the puck. Looking to send the puck the rest of the way around the end wall, Holtby managed only to put the puck right on the stick of the Devils' Mike Cammalleri, who one-timed the puck into the open net before Holtby could recover. That was all it took as Cory Schneider blanked the Caps on 30 shots.
Ten more notes on the game:
- The Caps' three-game winning streak, already their longest of this season, ended with this loss. In this, the 195th regular season meeting between the clubs, the Capitals and Devils played to the third 1-0 result in the history of the series. The Devils have won all three.
- The Capitals had eight power play shots in eight minutes against the league's worst power play unit. None of those power play shots came from Alex Ovechkin. The power play certainly had a "right-handed" look to it. Nicklas Backstrom, who plays the right wing wall or low to the right of the goaltender, had two shots. Troy Brouwer had one from the middle spot. Mike Green and John Carlson, right-handed defensemen who are usually looking to feed Ovechkin for a one-timer, could not and had two shots and one shot, respectively.
- It was not that Ovechkin was blanked for lack of trying. He had seven power play shot attempts, six of them blocked and the other a miss. Ovechkin had eight shots blocked for the game. No Devil had more than five shot attempts.
- How even was this game? Overall the Caps out-attempted the Devils, 52-51. At 5-on-5, the Devils finished up by a 36-34 margin. The problem, though, is that the three guys who started on the top-line - Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, and Jay Beagle - finished a combined plus-1 Corsi at 5-on-5 (Beagle getting the "1" while the other two were even).
- The loss and the way it unfolded was especially unfortunate for Holtby in the obvious respect, since his turnover led to the game's only goal. However, he made a number of fine saves, and looking at the larger picture, he has stopped 89 of 94 shots in his last three appearances, a save percentage of .947. After a stretch in which he was below .900 in save percentage in four of five games, it is a welcome turn-around.
- The Caps out-shot a team for the 13th time in 16 games. Last season they did not out-shoot an opponent for the 13th time until Game 46.
- Nicklas Backstrom seems to do everything in a quiet way. He has quietly become a beast in the faceoff circle. Tonight it was 12-for-17, 9-for-12 combined in the offensive and defensive ends. He is up to 56.1 percent on draws for the season, 12th in the league as we write this.
- Marcus Johansson had an odd night. He had his third straight game with four or more shots on goal. He had four tonight. His last one came eight seconds into the second period, leaving him the last 39:52 without one.
- At the other end, Andre Burakovsky went his second consecutive game without a shot on goal. He has only one over his last three games.
- Chris Brown, who was called up earlier in the day from the Hershey Bears as Brooks Laich was placed on injured reserve, and Liam O'Brien was unable to play, had one shot on goal. It was a turning point. Taking a pass at the Devils' blue line and cutting inside defenseman Marek Zidlicky, Brown had a clear path to goalie Cory Schneider in the fifth minute of the second period. He snapped off a shot from the high slot that Schneider gobbled up in the logo of his jersey, and perhaps the best chance of the evening for the Caps was foiled.
The Caps now go on the road against the St. Louis Blues, a team that can be as stifling as the Devils, if not more so, and more skilled to boot. As for this one, it was a game the Caps should have had, especially given the relative performance coming into this game of the Caps' power play and the Devils' penalty kill. New Jersey frustrated the Caps, who were unable to get the puck to Ovechkin consistently, and when they did get it to him, saw his attempts knocked aside by sprawling defenders. It made for a typically unappealing sort of New Jersey Devils game that would turn on one moment's misjudgment.