A night that began with promise ended familiarly — with the Washington Capitals losing a road game to the San Jose Sharks, as has now happened 11 times (with a single tie thrown in for good measure) since October 30, 1993.
Not content simply to have the Caps fall to a disappointing defeat, the hockey gods saw fit to throw an extra wrench into whatever optimism Washington might have been feeling entering Saturday night’s game. Mike Green, so recently returned from a prolonged absence with a groin injury, did not return to action after taking a hit from Andrew Desjardins behind Washington’s net early in the second period. In all Green could only managed 7:11 of ice time, and only nine shifts.
Green’s injury is yet another blow to a team that was already missing Nicklas Backstrom Saturday night as the Swedish center continued to recover from Rene Borque’s dirty elbow to the head Wednesday night.
After a strong first period, the Capitals let themselves get pinned in their own end early in the second period and San Jose inevitably took the lead at the 5:15 mark in unusual circumstances. Jamie McGinn’s shot went wide of the net, deflected off the end boards, caromed off Tomas Vokoun’s pads, and skidded around the crease before Jason Demers tapped it over the line for the game’s first goal.
The Capitals leveled matters 1:22 later after a gorgeous power play set-up 26 seconds after Brad Winchester was sent off the ice for goaltender interference. On a power-play unit that featured Alex Ovechkin, Alex Semin, and Troy Brouwer, it was Dennis Wideman who glided to the front of the net and one-timed Brouwer’s feed from below the goal line past Antti Niemi.
It appeared that the period would end 1-1, but Wideman was caught being careless with a high-stick with 49 seconds left. Forty seconds later, Brent Burns’ slap shot from the blue line put the home team up again.
However, the Capitals did themselves enormous credit in the early going of the third period, piling pressure on Niemi’s net. The parade of unlikely goal scorers continued with Joel Ward knocking home a loose puck from the low slot to tie the game at 2-2 44 seconds into the third. The goal was Ward’s first since November 5 and his fifth of the season.
However, the tie didn’t even last through the following shift as a poor clearance by Karl Alzner enabled Dan Boyle to find a cutting Joe Thornton, who popped a sweet little blind drop pass to Patrick Marleau, who slammed the puck into the open net. Just like that, it was 3-2 one minute into the third.
The Capitals had chances to tie the game, but Ward was denied by Niemi’s right pad before Matt Hendricks managed to inexplicably hit the crossbar from point-blank range. As time went on and grew short, Alex Ovechkin’s frustration ( he finished the night -3 got the better of him. With 12:33 left, Winchester was whistled for charging into Alex Semin. Ovechkin barreled after the offender and was given a matching minor for roughing. With the teams skating four a side, Marc-Edouard Vlasic made the score 4-2 with 11:09 to play with a wrist shot from the bottom of the face-off circle.
That essentially ended the competitive portion of the game, and Torrey Mitchell added the coup de grace with an empty net goal at the 18:43 mark.
The Capitals play against the Los Angeles Kings on Monday, possibly without both Backstrom and Green. And suddenly the good feelings of the team’s recent winning streak are well and truly gone. And it looked so promising there for a while, too.