“I thought at times it was a very lackluster game. If you don’t play with emotion, it’s tough.” -- Coach Bruce Boudreau.
There are no shootouts in the playoffs, but the way this game went, it should not have gotten that far anyway.
Rookie All-Star Jeff Skinner threw a harmless looking shot toward Washington Capital goalie Semyon Varlamov 1:46 into the third period which inexplicably escaped the young Russian, bringing the Carolina Hurricanes to a two-all draw.
Skinner said, "I was just going to dump it in [but] there was just a little bit of space there so I just took it in and just tried to put it on net and luckily it went in.”
After going through the motions for the rest of the third period and overtime, the Caps predictably lost in the shootout on home ice, falling to a more desperate Hurricanes team, 3-2.
Washington was unable to muster the intensity needed after the soft goal that trickled though Varlamov. It's both easy and hard to hang the loss on a goalie in a battle to lead his team into the playoffs. To say that was a goal he wished he had back would be an understatement.
But Varlamov had his moments in this one too, stopping a penalty shot and making a spectacular kick save to keep a 2-1 lead intact, until his lack of concentration did him -- and his teammates -- in.
Coach Bruce Boudreau didn't really address Varlamov's play in his post-game; rather, he was philosophical when asked about the soft goal. "“I don’t want to get down on our goalies – they’ve been very good. They’re allowed to have a bad goal. We should be able to pick them up if that’s the case.”
But there was no one to pick up Varlamov Tuesday night.
Defenseman John Carlson was one of just a few Caps players that spoke to the media in a very somber dressing room after the game and spoke about the intensity of the game.
"We [have] to be able to compete and beat any team that’s going to come hard because everyone is going to be fighting for their lives in the playoffs. I feel like at some points in the game we were just coasting a little bit instead of pushing the envelope and that’s what bit us in the end.”
Coming off a lengthy road trip -- one that was broken up by two home practices -- the Capitals should have had no problem with fatigue or motivation to play well for themselves and the home crowd. But the sloppy, penalty-filled match was filled with turnovers and passes to open spaces, though the Caps had the advantage on shots and chances over the less-talented Hurricanes squad.
But just like in the playoffs, lesser teams can win when their intensity isn't matched by a higher seed.
"We're a little bit down in this room right now," Matt Hendricks explained. "We really wanted to play our game against these guys and come home after a successful road trip. To come up with only one point tonight, we're not too happy."
Do you think you let one get away? "I think so," Hendricks replied frankly. "We had our opportunities, didn't score on a few of them. But that's the way she goes."
Such was the case last night, in a game that should not have gone to overtime.
GOOD SASHA, BAD SASHA
Both in full force last night. Alexander Semin scored a goal only he can, beating Canes goalie Cam Ward top shelf in a space of maybe four square inches between the goalie's head, shoulder and crossbar. It was the only space Ward gave Semin and he took it.
However, Semin's first pass would have been his only pass of the night, often skating into traffic and coughing up the puck.
And the inevitable stick foul came in a tied game with 3:19 remaining. And this one was a doozy. Semin lost the puck in the offensive zone and immediately put his blade into the Canes player's gut. He tried a second time around the center ice line, and finally was successful in hauling the Carolina player down at the Caps defensive blue line.
As Boudreau said post-game, "He was our best offensive player. But at the same time, he did the same thing he's been doing for five years, taking a dumb penalty with four minutes to go in the game. The refs didn't want to call any penalties [with time expiring], but they have to call that one. It's a bad hook in the neutral zone."
|(C.Nichols/Caps News Network)|
As if Boudreau's words weren't clear enough, his actions spoke even louder. Despite being his team's "best offensive player" in the game, and winning the "Player of the Game" on the broadcast for his goal and assist, Boudreau did not send Semin out for a shift in the overtime.
Alex Ovechkin (three games) and Jason Arnott (six games) returned from the various injuries they have been fighting. The rust was apparent, with Ovechkin taking 13 total shots, but hitting the net on just five of them, including missing the goal in his shootout attempt. Ovechkin was also credited with five hits, and came to the aid of Dennis Wideman, who appeared to be injured after a collision with Canes forward Tuomo Ruutu.
Both players took 19 shifts, with Ovechkin playing 19:20 and Arnott 14:13.
"Alex and Arnie haven't really practiced too much, I was a little worried about that," Boudreau said. "I thought [Ovechkin's] timing was off a little bit on some things. He had a lot of energy. He had a lot of hits. But you can tell sometimes the timing is off."
"Arnie plays a different kind of game than [Ovechkin]. He's way more in control than Alex is, so it's harder to tell. I think he uses his experience a lot more."
Wideman did not return after the collision with Ruutu and the team listed him day-to-day with a lower body injury after the game. There were no penalties called on the play Wideman was hurt on.
Wideman appeared to be leaning away from the check, and appeared to have twisted his trunk or knee as he fell back to avoid the high -- but absolutely legal -- check.
Regardless, the defenseman laid on the ice in apparent pain and Ovechkin confronted Ruutu in front of the Hurricanes' bench, leading to a scuffle with all the skaters on the ice. No penalties were called either on the contact or on the fracas that followed.
The Capitals were 0-for-3 on the power play, once again looking ragged with the man advantage. They managed just six shots on goal on the power play, and gave up several short-handed scoring chances, including taking a penalty on a breakaway that led to Varlamov's save on Chad LaRose's penaly shot attempt.
On the other side, the Caps killed five of the six power plays Carolina had, including the silly penalty by Semin with under four minutes in the game.
“I think we obviously took too many penalties and that got momentum for them," center Marcus Johansson (goal--13) said. "And I think for our penalty kills it was hard. We [have] to stay five guys on the ice as much as possible and not take those penalties, hooking and stuff where you don’t have to. That’s a big part of the game we have to be better at.”
"I thought we took stupid penalties," Boudreau said.
PHOTOS (Click photo for larger image)
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