"We had lots of chances to score. We just didn't." Coach Bruce Boudreau in his post-game remarks.
THE RESULT: The Washington Capitals offense has been struggling all season long, and those problems continued Thursday night, as Tim Thomas and the Boston Bruins dominated the Caps for the second time in three nights, winning 4-1 before a capacity crowd of 17,565 at TD Banknorth Garden for their home opener.
Boston has been on the road the better part of a month, playing exhibition games in Belfast before opening the regular season in Prague, then road games back in the states in New Jersey and Washington D.C.. But it was the team wearing Red that looked like they were the tired ones.
As has been the case all season, the Caps got down early, only this time Boston kept the pedal down and buried the Caps, manhandling them physically all evening. Only a mistake playing the puck by Thomas early in the third period kept this from being an embarrassing shut out for the Boston netminder.
Thomas was excellent once again. He's only allowed three goals in four games this year with a 0.75 GAA and .978 save percentage. He made several excellent saves early, but all too often the Washington shooters either hit Thomas in the pads, or couldn't get any lift on the puck as Thomas made a succession of kick saves late in the first, robbing Brooks Laich and Mike Knuble in close with toe saves.
The Capitals penalty kill, which had not given up a goal all season, was not up to its new-found status, as they allowed three power play goals in four attempts, including a bomb from Zdeno Chara with 16 seconds remaining in the game.
The Caps showed life in both the first and third periods, buzzing the net and getting scoring opportunities. Maybe they weren't getting the best opportunities, but the first period might have been the most effective they've had since the third period against the Devils. But the Bruins scratched out a PP goal at 19:32, and all the good effort went for naught.
Coach Bruce Boudreau thought the late first period goal was the key to the whole game. "I thought we outplayed them in the first period pretty good, coming in 0-0 in their home opener would have been so much better than the way it was."
But the wheels came completely off in the second period.
Jordan Caron put a snap shot past Semyon Varlamov at 2:22, taking advantage of poor communication and even worse positioning on defense, and the floodgates opened from there.
They just couldn't get out of their own end. After another dismal power play, Alex Ovechkin was caught on the ice at the point for what seemed like an eternity. Twice, in order just to get a breath, the Caps iced the puck, but that meant Ovechkin had to stay on the ice.
Eventually, Alex Semin was whistled for hooking, stopping play and allowing Ovi off the ice. Naturally, Boston made good on the advantage, with Nathan Horton scoring his fourth goal of the season 15 second before the infraction was to expire.
"We got caught out there too long with Nicky's line," Boudreau said. "They got one change in while the puck was in our zone -- which was a great change by them -- and we were too tired to move and they made it 2-0 then they scored on the power play to make it 3-0. It's pretty tough to come back against this team when the goalie is playing like that with a 3-0 lead."
We've been through this now the last couple of games. This team is in a deep, deep funk offensively, and were it not for the seven-goal outburst against New Jersey the stats would look even worse. Boudreau is trying to put a finger on it, and if it's getting a lucky result somewhere that flips the switch, it sounds like he'd take that at this point.
"There are guys not producing that should be producing and we want them to produce. Is it because they're not playing well, or is it because they're snakebit? I think they can all play better. It's a combination of both, I think."
Regardless the reason, if things don't change soon, Boudreau will be forced to make some changes. And thistime, it might not just be shuffling lines.
THE GOOD: There wasn't much. Marcus Johansson played well centering the second line, and the Caps got a lot of shots on goal. I'm reaching though.
THE BAD: Power play went 0-for-4, shut out the entire eight minutes.
This team really misses Mike Green, especially on the point of the power play.
THE UGLY: For the second straight game, the Caps were physically dominated by the Bruins. Granted, they are one of the stronger, more physical teams in the league. But the game really looked like a replay of Game 5, 6, or 7 from last year's first round playoff exit. Lots of shot from the perimeter, Ovi flipping wristers from the top of the circle, ususally into the shin pads of his defender, and the Caps getting beaten for pucks along the boards.
This team really misses Matt Bradley and Boyd Gordon doing some of that missing dirty work.
THE STATS: Jason Chimera (2), unassisted at 9:27 of 3rd. Semyon Varlamov 30-of-34.
NEXT GAME: Saturday at 7:00 pm v. Atlanta Thrashers at Verizon Center.
CAPS NEWS NETWORK THREE STARS
3. Mike Knuble. The oldest guy on the team was the only one showing anything along the boards. Had five SOG and broke up a 2-on-1.
2. John Erskine. Rugged defender blocked three shots, has two hits, and knocked down two passes that could have ended up in the goal and was +1 for the evening.
1. Marcus Johansson. The young centerman was the Caps most effective player, and was acknowledged as such by Boudreau after the game. "Marcus was probably our best forward."