GAME 15 REVIEW: Penalties Do In Caps Late, Lose 3-2 to Devils

Posted by Dave Nichols | Thursday, November 05, 2009 | , , , | 2 comments »

The Washington Capitals, looking for someone to provide a spark in the absence of two-time defending Hart Trophy winner Alex Ovechkin, got the complete opposite last night in a 3-2 loss to the New Jersey Devils (9-4-0).

Four third period penalties proved costly, as the Devils netted two power play goals, and held on to give the Caps (8-3-4) their third loss in a row, though just their third regulation loss of the season.

Coach Bruce Boudreau expressed his frustation to the media after the game, "Guys didn't come to play," Boudreau said. "Whether they are feeling sorry for themselves because Alex is not in, I don't know."

In particular, Alex Semin -- the one player on this roster that has talent that can approach the "Great 8" -- looked completely lost.  In addition to ineffective play, he took three penalties total, and two of the four third period infractions that kept the Caps on their heels instead of attacking.

Semin had as many penalties as shots.

Nine seconds after Semin went to the box for a hook, Niclas Bergfors (two power play goals) put a slap shot behind Semyon Varlamov (29 saves) for break a 1-1 tie.  So instead of stepping up, Semin let his team down, and Boudreau was cognizant of it.

"Not only did some of them not stand out, but they cost us the game," Boudreau said. "It's a tough one to swallow."

"They're automatic penalties," said Boudreau, of the third period mistakes. "If you go behind the net and you put your stick on a guy you're going to get a penalty. Brendan Morrison has been in the league for 10 years. Alexander Semin has been in the league for five years and it's just dumb penalties."

Tyler Sloan (1) and Tomas Fleischmann (3) tallied for the Caps.  Mathieu Perrault, making his NHL debut, assisted on both goals in just 10:30 of ice time.

But the theme of last night's game was lazy, ineffective play, something the Caps are not going to get away with while their goal-per-game superstar mends from his upper body injury, believed to be a left shoulder strain.

"We need to take leadership and take ownership of the dumb things we're doing," said Washington forward Mike Knuble, who has now taken a foul in the third period the last two games. "We have to stop it."

None of Washington's "Young Guns" played particularly well Wednesday night.  Semin, Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Green were all held without a point, and Green even deflected one of the New Jersey goals into his own net.

What might be the most troubling comment of all came from veteran New Jersey goalie Martin Brodeur, when asked about the Caps missing Ovechkin.  "The excitement level that he brings, the energy that he brings to the table, that wasn't there.  You can tell."

"You can tell."  Not words that Bruce Boudreau wants to hear.

Washington gets a day to think about it as they travel to Florida for the first of a home-and-home with the Panthers this weekend.

They better hope Ovechkin proves to be a fast healer, as he has in the past.  If Wednesday night was any indication, this team needs Ovechkin more than they anyone realizes.

For the second game in a row, the Washington Capitals fell in overtime at home to an opponent they should have dominated.  Sunday afternoon, in a strange 5:00 pm start, the Caps fell to the Columbus Blue Jackets 5-4 when R.J. Umberger scored a power play goal, his second of the game, 1:45 into the overtime period.

What was worse was the goal, and the situation that led up to it, that allowed the Jackets to tie the game.  Raffi Torres tipped in a cross-crease pass just as a slashing penalty to veteran Mike Knuble expired...with 23 seconds remaining in the game.

"Well, we took a stupid penalty, and that's what happens when you take stupid penalties," coach Bruce Boudreau said about Knuble's slash.  "It was a selfish penalty, and they cost you all the time."

It's unfortunate the way things sorted out, since the team really rallied after losing their leader, Alex Ovechkin, to an injury mid-way through the second period.

About six minutes into the second period, the back-to-back Hart Trophy winner collided with Torres and fell awkwardly to the ice.  He managed to get to his feet and skate off on his own, but he did not return.

Coach Bruce Boudreau did not have much to say about anything in the post-game press conference, but did managed to say Ovechkin was day-to-day with an upper body injury.

The play the caused Ovechkin to leave came a few shifts after a fracas along the boards where Ovechkin tangled up with Jason Chimera and Jared Boll.  Ovechkin had laid out Chimera earlier in the game, and the two started to mix it up a bit and Boll came to the aid of his teammate.

Ovechkin was coy with the media after the game.

"It was just a moment of the game. Nothing happened. [Chimera] hit me, I hit him. It was a little battle over there but nothing happen. I can't tell you how I got hurt."

Columbus' two late goals and the injury overshadowed a back-and-forth contest that was disjointed, penalty-filled, and frankly, downright ugly.

The Blue Jackets held a 2-1 lead after two periods, and the Caps (8-2-4) needed someone to step up in Ovechkin's absence.  That person was winger Brooks Laich.

Laich scored twice in a little over two minutes in the third as Washington retook the lead at 10:23.

But the lead would be short-lived, as Torres converted a wrap-around backhand to beat a stickless Jose Theodore, who seemed to be stiffening up late in the game, using several timeouts to get down on the ice and stretch out.

Quentin Laing banged home a nice pass from David Steckel, who collected a shot from the point by Matt Bradley, to re-take the lead at 16:34, and the capacity crowd at Verizon hoped that would be the straw that broke Columbus' collective back.

"We wanted to prove this team isn't about one guy, it's about a team, and we wanted to show people we can come back," Laing said in the quiet Capitals locker.

But then the veteran Knuble took a retaliatory hack at a Columbus defender with 2:30 left, and the complexion of the game changed.

So the Caps lost their leader and lost a game.  They have taken one point apiece in home games against the New York Islanders and Columbus.

Washington is 6-0-3 in their last nine games, but they have shown the frustrating inability to close out games.  You have to think they feel like they've left two points on the table the last two games.

And if Ovechkin misses any time, or Theodore's back is flaring up, they will have to do more than rally.  They will have to find a way to finish off these weaker opponents -- especially at home.

Brendan Morrison said it best after the game. "We rallied and did a lot of good things offensively, and then we just go and shoot ourselves in the foot. It is frustrating because it was a game we should have won."

Washington does not want those words to become a familiar phrase.