The Washington Capitals are beginning to enter desperation mode in their hunt for a fifth consecutive playoff berth, but it would be hard to tell from their performance Wednesday night on the road against the Ottawa Senators. Instead, for the second game in a row the Caps delivered a positively tepid performance in an embarrassing 5-2 loss to the surging Sens.
John Carlson provided Washington’s first goal, an impressive one-timer from the right faceoff dot on the power play. Mathieu Perreault’s goal was far less impressive, a shot that deflected off his face into the open net.
Both Caps goals came in the third period, after the Senators established a 4-0 lead with precision shooting and fancy stickhandling. Goaltender Tomas Vokoun started the game for Washington and allowed all four Ottawa goals on just 11 shots in 32:08, earning the hook from head coach Dale Hunter after the fourth. Michal Neuvirth was good in relief, stopping all 14 shots he faced and likely earning himself a start in the Caps’ next game.
All-Stars Erik Karlsson (1 goal, 2 assists) and Milan Michalek (2 goals, 1 assists) dominated in the first half of the game, combining on Ottawa’s first three goals to put Washington in an early hole. Karlsson opened the scoring at 9:36 of the first period, blasting an uncontested slapshot from the right point that beat Vokoun through a double screen.
Less than five minutes later Karlsson found Michalek on a long strength pass during a Caps line change, and the high-scoring winger earned his 26th of the season on a nifty headfake that shook Dennis Wideman before slipping the puck under Vokoun’s leg pads. Then, adding insult to injury, he scored his 27th on a deflection of a Karlsson shot on the power play four minutes into the second frame.
It wasn’t until Chris Phillips extended the home team’s lead to four goals on another power play strike later in the second that Washington showed any signs of offensive life. Senators goaltender Craig Anderson made 33 saves on 35 shots, but all told faced very few real scoring chances and stopped all but one of those (the Perreault goal being classified as a total fluke).
When Carlson snuck down from the right point at the end of Washington’s sixth power play of the evening, blasting Semin’s centering pass past Anderson’s outstretched left leg minutes into the third period, there was little reason for the Capitals to hope, although they could at least celebrate the end of a six-period goal-less streak. Perreault’s goal seven minutes later appeared to breathe life into the Caps, and the team had several close calls down the final stretch of the game.
In the end it was not to be, and Ottawa’s Nick Foligno provided the final margin of victory with an empty net goal with 1:13 remaining in the third.
Washington’s poor effort over the first forty minutes was a disappointing but unsurprising result of another significant injury to a significant member of the roster. Two games after defenseman Mike Green returned from injury, captain Alexander Ovechkin was scratched because of a lower body injury.
Without Ovechkin and still-injured Nick Backstrom, Washington’s top offensive threat was Alexander Semin, and the winger delivered with 2 assists. On the back end Green re-established himself as the team’s top blueliner, leading all Caps in ice time with 23:16 and registering a team-high 8 shots on net.
Abram Fox is the Washington Capitals Page Editor for District Sports Page. He has been covering the Capitals from the press box since the 2007-08 season.