April 21, 2019

GAME 54 RE-CAP: Caps stunned by “bad bounces”, fall to Winnipeg in shootout

Bad bounces happen, both physically and metaphorically.  In a season full of them for the Washington Capitals, they happened again last night in a most stunning fashion, turning a 2-0 lead with three minutes to play against the Winnipeg Jets into a 3-2 shootout loss.

In a span of eight seconds, the Caps gave up a goal playing three-on-six, then another power play goal from the center ice line that was supposed to be a hard dump-in.  Instead, it ricocheted off defenseman Karl Alzner’s stick and past a surprised Tomas Vokoun for the equalizer.

Yup.

The Caps found themselves playing three-on-six in the first place due to a slashing call on Roman Hamrlik at 15:55 and the very rare playing with a broken stick call against Brooks Laich 69 seconds later.

“I tried to clear the puck right away, and wasn’t aware [my stick] had snapped, and [the referee] made the call,” Laich said.  “I’m not gonna comment on the call.  Officials don’t want to be a factor in the game. They try their best, calls good or bad, they go your way or don’t sometimes.”

Trailing by two and sensing a momentum shift, Winnipeg coach Claude Noel pulled his goalie, Ondrej Pavelec, in favor of the extra attacker and the tactic paid off.

The Caps withstood playing three men down for 40 seconds, but eventually a rebound found an unguarded man, and Caps-killer Evander Kane found the back of the net, his 19th of the season and eighth in his last eight games against the Capitals.  The Jets won the ensuing face-off, and defenseman Dustin Byfuglien carried to center ice and attempted a hard dump-in.  But Karl Alzner was caught in no-man’s land and the puck deflected off his stick and beat Vokoun stick side after the goalie already started to move to play the dump-in.

The apoplectic Verizon Center crowd fell silent, in total disbelief of what they had witnessed.

“That’s what a team always needs – good luck and some bounces,” Byfuglien said after.  “I thought we’ve worked hard lately and haven’t really got a nice bounce. Luckily we got one tonight.”

“He dumped the puck in off my stick and it went in the net,” Alzner said matter-of-factly. “Pretty simple, and pretty stupid.  And pretty unfortunate.”

Washington had the two-goal advantage courtesy of two power play goals of their own, with Alex Ovechkin scoring the first on a rebound of an Alexander Semin hard shot, then Ovechkin setting up Semin on the back door with a beautiful cross-crease pass with another man advantage.  Those powerplay goals will be lost, however, in the discussion of the collapse of the last four minutes.

There were six penalties called all night, four coming after the the 9:36 mark of the third period.  Goals were scored on all four.  That, my friends, is a fine example of the referees insinuating themselves into the play of a previously scoreless affair.

After the wind had been taken out of the Caps’ sails and out of the arena, this game had only one logical conclusion: The Gimmick.  The Jets didn’t even need their third shot, as Blake Wheeler and Bryan Little both beat a tired-looking Vokoun (25 saves) while Ovechkin was the only of the three Caps’ players (Semin, Mathieu Perreault) to beat Pavelec (32 saves).

Alzner didn’t mince words describing the prelude to the unfathomable ending, which contributed to the late penalty calls.  “Seemed like towards the end of the game we got up those two goals and guys started sitting back, seemed to be a little bit weaker on pucks.  We got jammed up in our own zone and take [Hamrlik’s] penalty because of it.”

Bad bounces happen.  But sometimes you make your own luck.

GAME NOTES:  The loss, coupled with wins by Florida and Ottawa pushes the Caps down to ninth place in the Eastern Conference, tied in points with the Panthers with 61 points, but in second in the Southeast Division due to tiebreakers.  Ottawa sits in seventh with 63 points, Toronto holds eighth place with 62.

Washington won 34-of-57 face-offs (60 percent).  They outhit Winnipeg (22-19) and blocked 22 shots compared to 18 for the Jets.

The last time the Caps scored two power play goals in a game was Jan. 13 against Tampa Bay.

Mike Kunble was a healthy scratch for the first time this season.  He was joined in the press box by John Erskine.

__________________________

Dave Nichols is Editor-in-Chief of District Sports Page. He is credentialed to cover the Nats and the Caps, and previously wrote Nats News Network and Caps News Network. Dave’s first sports hero was Bobby Dandridge. Follow Dave’s Capitals coverage on Twitter @CapitalsDSP.

About Dave Nichols

Dave Nichols is Editor-in-Chief of District Sports Page. He is credentialed to cover the Washington Nationals, Capitals, Wizards and Mystics. Dave also covers national college football and basketball and Major League Soccer for Associated Press and is a copy editor for the Spokesman-Review newspaper in Spokane, WA. He spent four years in radio covering the Baltimore Orioles, Washington Redskins and the University of Maryland football and basketball teams. Dave is a life-long D.C. sports fan and attended his first pro game in 1974 — the Caps’ second game in existence. You can follow him on Twitter @DaveNicholsDSP

Comments

  1. Scott Gater says:

    I don’t think either team played well. I was at the game and judging by the falls and bounces, the ice wasn’t all that good. The first two periods were about the worst played periods I’d seen in 35+ years of watching hockey. No flow at all. Judging by the empty seats, I’d say a few fans “took the night off” as well. Yes, the Jets got lucky with some bounces etc, but considering neither team could put together a scoring play at 5 on 5, both were lucky to get a point. Yes the ref’s were not up to NHL standards , but then the players weren’t either.

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