"It's not like a secret." Bruce Boudreau, on getting goals around the net.
THE RESULT: In an all too familiar refrain, the Washington Capitals found themselves trailing after two periods of play, on the road against the Eastern Conference leading Philadelphia Flyers.
In 40 seconds worth of hard work in the third, the Caps tied the game up and looked to be carrying all the momentum into overtime.
But another blown defensive assignment led to an uncontested shot, and the Flyers took the two points they probably felt was theirs all along. Salvaging one point on the road against the top team in the East was little solice to the Capitals last night after clawing their way back in it, only to have their guts ripped out again.
It's Washington's sixth straight loss in overtime games.
The Caps played in the third period like they are capable, flying around the ice, getting quality shots on net, and finishing when the opportunity presented itself. Both goals, by Mike Knuble and Alex Ovechkin, were from within five feet of the goal.
Unfortunately, that effort was missing from the first 45 minutes or so of this game.
The Caps once again came out flat, surrendering a goal just 1:31 in, as Jeff Carter got behind the defense, wrapped around the goal and snuck one in past Michal Neuvirth. Neuvy looked out of sorts through much of the first period, and left the game at intermission. Coach Bruce Boudreau called him "day-today" with a lower body injury.
Philly scored again in the second, as Claude Giroux was allowed to waltz though the crease uncontested, take a pass from the corner, shoot, collect his rebound, and shoot again after Semyon Varlamov was already down.
But the Caps rallied in the third, with Knuble tipping in a shot from Marcus Johansson that hit the right post and died, and Ovechkin got just enough of a puck he played with his hand to slip it by Sergei Bobrovsky. Ovi's goal, his 16th of the season, stood after video replay.
But in OT, Johansson got caught too low in his own zone during four-on-four hockey, and Andrej Meszaros blasted a shot that eluded Varlamov for the game winner just 1:07 into extra time.
The team's captain was as introspective as he's been all season long in the locker room following the bitter loss. "All the guys in this room understand. If we work hard and we use our skill nobody can stop us."
"Right now you can see in our first two periods, the second period we probably only put four shots on net, six shots on net. It's not our game. We have to go to the net, find our rebound, crash the nets, make some hits -- you know, be angry."
Ovechkin was then asked why the team couldn't do that in the first two periods. He drew a deep breath, and said, "That's the question. Next game is gonna be a big game for us, I think. We have to be ready right away and I hope we're gonna be ready. I know we're gonna be ready."
You can see it for yourself below, courtesy of Caps.com's Caps 365.
This team needs to figure out why they can't get out of the gate. Last season, the Caps led the league in first period goals. This season: dead last so far.
The Caps lead the league in come-from-behind wins this season, but getting behind every night is more than a nuisance. It is taking a lot out of them, and forcing their best players into more minutes. It's certainly not the way a coach wants to script things.
The Caps have a day off, then face the Islanders on Thursday and Toronto on Saturday. As of right now, they stand 14th and 12th in the conference. The Islanders are minus-40 in goal differential, Toronto minus-18.
These are both games the Caps HAVE TO HAVE. Period. Anything less is unacceptable.
THE GOOD: Two goals from five feet out. One of them was by Ovechkin. Hope everyone learned a lesson.
THE BAD: Despite the one brilliant move that set up Knuble's goal, Marcus Johansson did not have a very good night. He was on the ice for all three Philly goals, and was caught too deep in OT to guard his man, who scored the game-winner. Also, the rookie was just 3-for-9 on faceoffs.
I think most people fail to remember the Caps, through conscious decision and now injury, are playing every night with six rookies in the lineup.
THE UGLY: D.J. King took just seven shifts and played just 4:24, getting his fight with Jody Shelly out of the way early. He spent more time in the box than on the ice. He's only doing the job his coach put him out there for, but if that's all his coach wants him for, it seems like he really is not the right fit for this team.
Again, I have all the respect in the world for King. He busts his ass every day at practice, and hasn't said word one about not getting a sweater. None of this is his fault. But he just doesn't figure into Boudreau's game plan, and is eating a roster space -- and cap room.
Also, something else to watch: David Steckel took just 11 shifts and played just 7:00 minutes. He also lost five of his seven draws and took a hooking penalty, the only minor given out to either team on the evening.
THE STATS: Mike Knuble (11) from Marcus Johansson (5) at 7:58 of 3rd. Alex Ovechkin (16) from Nicklas Backstrom (31) and Jason Chimera (9) at 8:38 of 3rd. Michal Neuvirth (7-for-8 saves). Semyon Varlamov (L, 20-of-22 saves).
NEXT GAME: Thursday at New York Islanders at 7:00 pm.
CAPS NEWS NETWORK THREE STARS
3. Matt Hendricks. Three shots, five hits and a blocked shot. Sandpaper.
2. Semyon Varlamov. Made several excellent saves, none more important than on his own player, as a shot ricocheted off Mike Green, sending Varly sprawling to keep the game tied late in the third.
1. Alex Ovechkin. Played perhaps his best period of hockey in two months in the third period. Find that energy in the first Thursday night and the Islanders will crumble.