"We've got to figure out ways to get to that net and find some dirty, ugly goals." --Matt Hendricks, who was the only Capital player to take that advice to heart.
Caps console goalie Braden Holtby after 2-1shootout loss. (C.Nichols/CapsNewsNetwork)

THE RESULT:  The Washington Capitals allowed a depleted, offensive-starved New York Rangers team to come into their building with their back-up goalie and steal two points, as Washington lost their seventh straight extra-time game, 2-1 in a shootout that never should have happened.

Washington has taken a point in five straight games, going 3-0-2, but this one should have been in the win column.  The Caps tried to sit on a lead and failed to seize any of the opportunities provided to them and allowed a beaten team to score a fluky goal and send the game to overtime.

Very simply, the Caps played not to lose in the third period.  They sat back on defense and watched the Rangers get off ten shots to their measly six, most in the frantic last two minutes of regulation, after New York tied the game at one at 13:19.

It was an ugly goal, one that Marian Gaborik, the credited goal scorer, didn't even see.  Brian Boyle lofted a floater to the low slot from the point, and the puck hit Gaborik in the arm, and in the motion of turning the puck deflected off Gaborik, and perhaps Caps defenseman Karl Alzner's stick, and past a confused Braden Holtby.

The goal went to review, but with the call on the ice of "goal", it was very difficult to overrule.  Gaborik certainly did nothing on purpose to direct the puck toward the net, and it appears it never hit his stick, which was above his waist.  Gaborik didn't know what happened, as he was the last man on the ice to realize that a goal had been scored.

“It was a lucky bounce,” Matt Hendricks said. “A fluke goal on their part.  But they had been getting pretty close. They had a lot of shots. They were outplaying us in the attack zone.”

It's fitting that the deciding goal in this game would be scored in such a fashion, because it's the type of goal the Caps just aren't getting right now.

"You've heard the old cliche 'defense is your best offense' and it is," Hendricks continued.  "If you're playing well in the defensive zone you're going to force them to make mistakes, force them to turn pucks over and then you've got to use it to your benefit.  You've got to be ready to go and take the opportunities."

But the Caps squandered most of the opportunities they were presented last night. 

They managed just 17 shots on goal in regulation.  Read that again.  Just 17 shots on goal in regulation.  Alex Ovechkin had six and Hendricks had four.  That means that 16 other skaters combined for seven shots in regulation.

Brooks Laich had one shot on goal.  Mike Green had one. Mike Knuble had one.  Mathieu Perreault had zero.  The fourth line had zero combined.

That's squandering any opportunity you've been presented.

Coach Bruce Boudreau certainly noticed.  "We’ve been passing up shots to create plays. I thought there were four or five times when the defenseman or forward had it, we’d fake a shot, we had a good direct line and we’d pass it up. You score your goals by shooting the puck and going to the net.”

The Caps seemed to take some momentum from a second period goal by Hendricks, his second in as many games.  Marcus Johansson found Hendricks cutting to the far post and hit him perfectly in stride from the opposite point.  All Hendricks had to do was get his stick on it to tip it past Rangers goalie Martin Biron (23 saves).

But in the third period, the Caps came out and tried to suffocate the Rangers, content to sit on the lead and play not to lose, instead of seizing the opportunity to pounce on a wounded opponent. 

Ovechkin described the third period philosophy.  "We just get the lead and we try to make safe game and avoid mistakes. But they score a goal on a lucky bounce, it hits the glove and goes in the net. So, we can do nothing."

It says a lot about the state of the Capitals right now that the most exciting offensive player in hockey is talking about playing a "safe game" instead of going for victory.

Instead of celebrating a hard-earned victory at home, the Caps leave Verizon Center for a quick trip to Atlanta with the bitter taste of shootout defeat in their mouths. After seemingly taking a step forward on the recently concluded road trip, settling for a point in a shootout loss to a backup goalie sends them back to square one.

THE GOOD:  Marcus Johansson's pass to Matt Hendricks, cutting to the far post, was a thing of absolute beauty.  It's plays like that where you can see the young pivot is going to be making a living in this game for a long time.

It's also the type of play we used to see a lot from another Swedish center.

THE BAD: Boudreau is grasping at so many straws on the power play right now, he gave the Gordon-Steckel-King line 28 seconds of power play time.  Under no circumstances is that the right thing to do.

The Capitals went 0-for-2 on the power play, registering just a single shot on goal in four minutes.

THE UGLY: On three separate occasions last night, players that had the puck with speed entering the offensive zone deferred to Ovechkin at the blue line, leading to turnovers.  Twice Nick Backstrom, who was otherwise invisible against the Rangers, crossed the blue line with speed, only to dump it to the double-covered Ovechkin.  Chimera was guilty of it too.

If you have speed at the blue line, carry the puck to the circles and look for Ovi in the slot, or dump and chase.  STOP GOING BACKWARDS IN THE OFFENSIVE ZONE!

Rant over.

THE STATS:  Matt Hendricks (7) from Marcus Johansson (6) and Scott Hannan (7) at 1:27 of 2nd.  Holtby: L, 28 saves on 29 shots (.966).

NEXT GAME: Wednesday at Atlanta Thrashers at 7:00 pm. Last game before All-Star break.


3. Braden Holtby.  Again, just one goal in regulation.  And the player that "scored" it didn't even realize it.  The quirky kid netminder has given up three goals in three games.
2. Alex Ovechkin.  Really, he was the best player on the ice tonight, he just didn't produce any points.  Six shots, another five blocked or missed.  Speed game is coming back.  He was asked post-game if he felt more confident in himself and he replied "The Old Ovi"?  Yes, please.
1. Matt Hendricks.  Goal in regulation.  Get this -- going to the net!  Goal in the shootout.  Four shots, three hits, plus-1.  What's not to love?

Holtby victimized in the shootout. (C.Nichols/CapsNewsNetwork)