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The Capitals entered the evening's game only one point behind the eighth place Columbus Blue Jackets (facing off against the Colorado Avalanche tonight). The Stars entered tonight's game only one point behind the eighth place Phoenix Coyotes in the Western Conference. Both teams had a chance to leapfrog themselves into the playoffs but Washington dropped a goose-egg at home against Kari Lehtonen and Dallas - Dustin Jeffrey's second period goal effectively ending the game.
Too little too early - too little too late - two points the wrong way.
Ten more notes on the game:
- Tyler Seguin got the game's scoring started just a hair over fifteen minutes into the contest - a hard shot from Jamie Benn in the slot giving Seguin a deflection chance he would not miss. Washington was sloppy in the defensive zone from the start of the first period but the Stars eventually connected on their 13th shot of the night.
- Two shorthanded breakaways for the Stars in the first 32 seconds of a Washington man advantage opportunity nullified the power play and showed a surplus of confidence from the defense when trying to contain the puck at the offensive blue line. Ryan Garbutt's clean breakaway from sixty feet out was deja vu - and Washington lost their first two minute advantage. A sign of things to come...
- You don't spend twenty-two years in the League without learning some of the game's finer points. Ray Whitney's deft forehanded deke to reach the puck around Jaroslav Halak is only accomplished with a grizzled veteran's patience - and an inexcusable (well, they all are) two on zero. A perfect patient pass from Alex Chiasson to Whitney was all it took - Halak did about as well as one could. John Erskine and Mike Green trying to catch up?, classic.
- Barely thirty seconds later Jeffrey was left all alone to Halak's left on the Stars' third - Erskine, Julien Brouillette, and Chris Brown were all simultaneously preoccupied with Chiasson standing at the top of the net (seriously, John?). With Halak already on his side after making an initial save the former Pittsburgh Penguin had no problem chipping it into the twine without resistance for his first of the year.
- Halak was relieved of his duties immediately following the Jeffrey tally to be replaced by Braden Holtby. The youngerer gatekeeper would get dented twice on the 14 shots directed his way - but he was unable to salvage this team's start by himself. Pulling Halak 9:50 into the middle frame was Adam Oates' smartest move of the night.
- The Capitals came out flying to start the third period, but as everyone knows, it was far too little far too late. Before long the Stars regained their footing and kept the desperate Washington franchise at bay with smart puck movement and strong skating legs. They didn't stop pressing either...
- Jeffrey continued the offense in the third period, a quick snapshot from the right wing came courtesy of a beautiful backhanded pass from Whitney. The forward celebrated his second goal of the season (and the game) and Dallas' improved playoff chances. Those guys looked happy. And involved.
- An interesting fourth line tonight - freshmen Brown, Evgeny Kuznetsov, and Tom Wilson skating together, finishing cumulatively at -6. All three were on the ice for both of the Stars' second period tallies but I am no longer sure anyone can look good skating their home games on Verizon Center's ice.
- Washington's third line of Joel Ward, Eric Fehr, and Jason Chimera was the only trio going throughout the night, the three combatants testing Lehtonen by cycling the puck to the front of the net. Several sparkling saves from Lehtonen kept the Verizon Center quiet and the home team scoreless in the second period. The third line would be the only Capitals players finishing the game without a minus.
- Garbutt would make good on his shorthanded breakaway that was chopped down by John Carlson - the speedy winger out skating Green and tucking the puck between Holtby's legs with a backhand. You could tell that the kid really wanted that one.
The team did not show up, or more accurately, arrived as they all too often do. With their playoff hopes barely hanging by a thread the Capitals gave less than one-hundred percent on home ice. It looked bad when the Stars found themselves two shorthanded breakaways within thirty seconds but it culminated with two visiting goals within thirty seconds less than a period later. I'd suggest everyone head to bed, Washington is keeping it warm for you.