October 1, 2014

Washington Capitals Game 32 Recap: Capitals fall 3-2 to Panthers in shootout

(Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images)

(Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images)

 

Another day, another slow start. For the second time this week, the Washington Capitals seemed to forget they were supposed to be playing a hockey game against a team from Florida. Coach Adam Oates called it “the worst we’ve played in our own end for a long time.”

Mike Green, who had a rough night already with a waved-off goal in the first period, gave the puck away to Dylan Olsen early in the second period, who took the impetus to score and give his team a 1-0 lead. Outshot by 16-7 in the first period alone, it took a dirty hit on Eric Fehr by Erik Gudbranson late in the second period to help the Caps remember how to play hockey again. Sort of. They had 8 shots on goal in the second period, despite a 3-minute power play.

Troy Brouwer came to his comrade’s rescue after the hit, earning himself 17 minutes worth of penalties in the process. Sure, he avenged his teammate’s honor, but robbed his team of a valuable piece of what would have been a 5-minute power play. Instead, it was two minutes of 4-on-4 hockey followed up by a 3-minute Capitals power play. All hail The Code.

Fehr returned to the game in the third period after undergoing NHL concussion protocol.

Okay, so a 4-minute power play isn’t something to complain about, especially when it’s a power play that’s as effective as the Caps.The wizardry of Mikhail Grabovski’s work on the boards during the 4-on-4 time paid off in the form of a Nicklas Backstrom wrist shot that tied the game. The Panthers Alexsander Barkov scored the go-ahead goal for Panthers before the 4-on-4 expired.

Before the 3-minute Capitals power play expired, the Capitals scored the tying goal, but it was first waved off by the referee when there should have been a whistle. The play was reviewed, and the replay showed the goal belonged to Joel Ward, assisted by Marcus Johansson and Backstrom.

Philipp Grubauer, the backup goalie’s backup, faced a total of 41 shots on goal, regulation and overtime combined, not to mention the 10 round shootout.  The Capitals only mustered 25 shots the entire game, so this was a classic Washington Capitals case of goaltender bailout. By all intents and purposes, the Capitals should have lost this game in regulation, and by a much larger margin. Grubauer made save after magisterial save, and bailed out the rest of the team when they had a lapse. He plays with the composure and maturity of a much more experienced goaltender.

However, there is no way the Capitals can continually allow their goaltenders to be shelled in every game and expect to win (or in this case, make it to overtime). It might work for a little while, but it won’t last forever. Just look at the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Washington Capitals Game 14 Recap: It takes a shootout, but Caps down Florida 3-2

Playing without captain and leading scorer Alex Ovechkin for the second night in a row due to an upper body injury, the Washingt0n Capitals got a solid effort from goalie Michal Neuvirth and goals from Nick Backstrom and John Carlson — his first of the season — to force overtime and a shootout, where all three Caps shooters scored to take two points from former Southeast Division foe Florida Panthers. The resulting 3-2 win evens the Caps record at 7-7-0, good for third place in their new digs, the Metropolitan Division, with 14 points.

Neuvirth, starting in place of Braden Holtby, who played Friday night and went around with noted pugilist Ray Emery, saved 33 of the 35 shots sent his way, including 19 of 20 at even strength.  He allowed a goal to the first shooter in the skills competition, Aleksander Barkov, but denied Jonathan Huberdeau, which led to Nick Backstrom sealing the deal on the next shot.

Washington broke out on top in the first period with the refigured first line of Backstrom, Eric Fehr and Martin Erat. The Caps made an easy transition off a defensive zone faceoff through the neutral zone and into Panthers territory. Fehr brought the puck across the blue line and seemed to fumble it as he made his way into the slot.

But Backstrom alertly corralled the puck and whipped it past a seemingly stunned Scott Clemmensen for his fifth goal of the season, and third in the two games that Ovechkin has been absent.

In the second period, a very poor pass from Brooks Laich, who was covering the left point after Alexander Urbom pinched in on a play, led to Scottie Upshall springing Jesse Winchester on a breakaway. Despite Laich hooking Winchester the last 40 feet of the sprint, the Florida forward got enough on the shot to beat Neuvirth five-hole.

But just 36 seconds later, John Carlson took a nifty feed by Michael Latta on a controlled break and roofed it over Clemmensen’s right shoulder to give the Caps a 2-1 lead after two.

Midway through the third, the Caps had an extended offensive possession on the power play with several good chances, including Mike Green ringing one off the post, but could not get a shot to fall.

But former Caps have a way of haunting the current squad, and Saturday night would be no different. Old friend Tomas Fleischmann tied things up with just 2:38 remaining as the Panthers skated on a 4-on-3.

The power play goal against breaks the Caps streak of 35 consecutive penalty kills.

Despite the Caps getting a power play in the overtime, the extra session ended scoreless. Mikhail Grabovski led off for the Caps in the shootout and made a beautiful move, carrying in on his forehand, then faking a slap shot before slipping it to his backhand and getting the puck just out of the reach of Clemmensen.

Barkov used almost the exact same move against Neuvirth at the other end to even things up.

Brooks Laich was up next, and through he faked himself out — he missed the puck with his last attempt at a deke — the puck eluded Clemmensen five-hole. With the goal, Laich moves to 6-for-18 (33.3%) career in the shootout.

Neuvirth then made a glove save on second-year center Jonathan Huberdeau to set up Backstrom’s dramatic game-winner. Backstrom came in forehand all the way and simply beat Clemmensen without any trickery whatsoever to deliver the extra point to the Capitals.

The Caps have won 18 of the last 23 meetings with the Panthers.

Washington is off until Tuesday night, when they host the New York Islanders at 7:00 pm.

Washington Capitals Game 22 Recap: Capitals’ quick start buries Panthers

While the Washington Capitals have dominated the Florida Panthers in the last two years at Verizon Center, Thursday night the Caps took it to a whole new level in a 7-1 destruction of their Southeast Division foe.

The Capitals scored four times in the first 8:10 of the contest – second-fastest time to the four-goal mark in team history – and crushed the Panthers to move within a game of the .500 points mark for the first time since the team’s home opener back on January 22 – when they were 0-1.

Washington has outscored Florida 23-3 in their last five meetings at Verizon Center, with three shutouts, and overall have scored 18 goals in three games against Florida, 27 percent of their season’s production. More importantly for the Capitals, they moved to within six points of the Southeast lead with Carolina’s 4-2 loss to Montreal. [Read more...]

Washington Capitals Game 13 Recap: Brouwer caps comeback with OT winner

It’s been trying times for the Washington Capitals this season as they have struggled out of the gate in this lockout-shortened season with just three wins in their first 12 games. But a furious third period comeback from a two-goal deficit set up an overtime winner from Troy Brouwer to deliver the Caps a 6-5 OT win against the Florida Panthers in Sunrise, FL, the Caps second consecutive win over the Panthers.

The Caps (4-8-1, 9 points) got two late third period goals, from Eric Fehr and Alex Ovechkin, to force overtime, where Brouwer took a breakout pass from Nick Backstrom, drove past Panthers forward Steven Weiss down the right wing, and beat goalie Scott Clemmensen between the wickets for the game-winner. [Read more...]

Washington Capitals Game 12 Recap: Washington breaks skid in rout of Panthers

Mired in last place in the Eastern Conference and desperately needing a boost in the standings, the Washington Capitals earned just their third victory of the season with a 5-0 win over the Florida Panthers at Verizon Center Saturday night.

Washington struggled in the short season’s first quarter, going just 3-8-1, but managed to at least not fall any further out of the playoff chase with the victory over their division rivals.

Braden Holtby had a 27-save shutout for Washington, his first since last March 25 against Minnesota, while Troy Brouwer had his first two-goal game since last February 28 against the Islanders. In addition, Alex Ovechkin ended his 5-on-5 drought, scoring his first even-strength goal of the season.

“I had a feeling right away we were going to play well,” Ovechkin said afterwards. “Everyone was focusing and not joking around. That’s how we have to play.” [Read more...]

CAPS: 2012-13 Southeast Division Preview

With the lockout-shortened season upon us, there have been a few additions and subtractions to a Washington Capitals roster that finished second place in the Southeast Division a season ago. Similarly, there are a few new faces elsewhere in the division, and new expectations for each team. District Sports Page provides a primer for the remainder of the Southeast Division and offers its predictions for how things will pan out.

Carolina Hurricanes
Last season: 33-33-16, 82 pts, 5th Southeast Division, 12th Eastern Conference
Head Coach: Kirk Muller
Key Additions: Alexander Semin, Jordan Staal, Marc-Andre Gragnani, Joe Corvo
Key Losses: Brandon Sutter, Bryan Allen

Last year, a slow start doomed the employment of then-Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice and were never able to recover, finishing last place in the Southeast Division, 12 points out of the division lead.

Nonetheless, under new head coach Kirk Muller the ‘Canes played inspired hockey. Captain Eric Staal (24 goals, 46 assists, 70 points) overcame a horrendous +/- to lead the team in goals, assists, and points. The veteran Staal had as many assists as the next highest scorer, Jussi Jokinen, had total points.

For many years, Staal has been a one-man show in Raleigh. The development of young phenom Jeff Skinner has improved things, and this season GM Jeff Rutherford has added a pair of offensive studs: Jordan Staal and Alexander Semin. Washington Capitals fans are well acquainted with Semin, who plied his trade in D.C. for seven seasons before signing a one-year, $7 million deal in Carolina. In recent years Semin has disappointed, but Rutherford is hoping to get the 40-goal scorer of 2009-10, not the 21-goal scorer of 2011-12.

Jordan Staal, formerly of the Pittsburgh Penguins, is also a familiar face in Washington. Due a huge contract, Staal was dealt over the offseason to the Hurricanes, who inked him to an extension for 10 seasons and $60 million. Both Staal and Semin are top six forwards, adding legitimate scoring options to a roster that finished in the bottom half of the NHL in goals and power play percentage last season.

In general, Carolina looks to be a much stronger offensive team in 2012-13, swapping out steady defensive-minded players in Brandon Sutter and Bryan Allen in favor of Semin, Jordan Staal, and defensemen Joe Corvo and Marc-Andre Gragnani. If goaltender Cam Ward plays well the Hurricanes will certainly qualify for a playoff berth, and a return to potential by both Ward and Semin will see the ‘Canes in the top half of the Eastern Conference playoff bracket.

Florida Panthers
Last season: 38-26-18, 94 pts, 1st Southeast Division, 3rd Eastern Conference
Head Coach: Kevin Dineen
Key Additions: Filip Kuba, Peter Mueller
Key Losses: Jason Garrison, Wojtek Wolski, Mikael Samuelsson

Chances are few people even in the Panthers organization expected this squad to win a division title in 2011-12. After years of mediocrity GM Dale Tallon completely overhauled the squad, and his ragtag bunch captured the Southeast Division on the strength of the shootout. Florida only won seven games in overtime or the shootout, but the 18 games they lost after the end of regulation provided just enough of a margin to keep them ahead of the Caps when the season closed.

Florida’s biggest revelation on the ice was Tomas Fleischmann, the erstwhile Capital whose four-year, $18 million dollar contract was mocked until he responded with a 27 goal, 34 assist campaign was a career best. More importantly, after missing significant time for blood clots in his legs, Flash played in all 82 games for the first time in his career.

Also surprising on the ice for the Cats was the emergence of perhaps the best offensive defense pairing in Brian Campbell (4 goals, 49 assists) and Jason Garrison (16 goals, 17 assists). Garrison has since departed for a hefty free agent contract in Vancouver, and shootout specialist Wojtek Wolski is now on Washington’s roster.

In free agent signing Peter Mueller, Tallon hopes to strike gold again with a new addition to the roster. After missing all of 2010-11 and 50 games of 2011-12 with a concussion, Mueller likely benefited from the extra recovery time due to the lockout. He scored 22 goals in his rookie season with Phoenix but has only potted 33 goals in 173 games since.

On paper, this squad looks like a marginal playoff team, not a division winner. Then again, the same was true last season. There’s no way they get quite so lucky when it comes to the loser point from extra play in 2012-13, so look for them to be a bubble playoff team come April.

Tampa Bay Lightning
Last season: 38-38-8, 84 pts, 3rd Southeast Division, 10th Eastern Conference
Head Coach: Guy Boucher
Key Additions: Anders Lindback, Sami Salo, Matt Carle
Key Losses: Dwayne Roloson

Shrewd offseason moves position the Lightning to be a Southeast Division contender in 2012-13. Adding two defensemen and a goalie aren’t particularly flashy pickups, but combined with no losses of note, this is a dangerous roster. Tampa Bay returns its top 12 point scorers from last year, including the best goal scorer in the league, 22-year-old Steven Stamkos (60 goals, 37 assists).

Tampa Bay finished ninth in the NHL and tops in the Southeast in goals, averaging 2.83 goals a game. That was more than offset, however, by allowing a league-worst 3.39 goals/game. In 2010-11, 41-year-old Dwayne Roloson was a revelation in net, backstopping the Lightning to the seventh game of the Eastern Conference Finals. In 2011-12, 42-year-old Roloson (3.66 GAA, .886 Sv%) was a trainwreck, finishing in 45th place, dead last, in Goals Against Average and Save Percentage for goalies who played at least 25 games. By the end of the season he ceded the job to Mathieu Garon, whose 2.85 GAA and .901 Sv% were both outside the top 37 for goalies.

This season Roloson is still an unrestricted free agent and reinforcements have arrived in the form of 24-year-old goalie Anders Lindback, whose massive 6’6” frame was stuck behind workhorse netminder Pekka Rinne in Nashville the past two seasons, as well as defensemen Sami Salo and Matt Carle. At this point in his career Lindback is mostly potential with very little proven, but at the least he represents a new direction for Tampa’s netminding.

Salo, formerly of Vancouver, brings necessary pop to Tampa Bay’s stagnant power play, which was 25th in the league at 15.2% rate. He slots into the Lightning’s second defensive pairing, while Carle, a 28-year-old who was part of Philadelphia’s dominating defense the past four seasons, should form a stifling shutdown pairing that will rival Washington’s Karl Alzner and John Carlson for effectiveness.

Of the three teams stuck in the bottom of the Southeast last year, Tampa Bay is most likely to make the leap to the top of the division. If Lindback or Garon can prove to be serviceable NHL starters, the Lightning will be sitting pretty in the division. If not, it’ll be another wasted season for Stamkos down in Florida.

Winnipeg Jets
Last season: 37-35-10, 84 pts, 4th Southeast Division, 11th Eastern Conference
Head Coach: Claude Noel
Key Additions: Olli Jokinen, Alexei Ponikarovsky
Key Losses: Chris Mason

At one point in the CBA talks, rumor was that the league would swap Winnipeg out of the Southeast Division in favor of Columbus, just for 2013 season, to alleviate travel concerns. Sadly for Ted Leonsis’s pocketbook that never came to pass, so the Caps will be making at least a handful of cross-country flights to play the Jets.

For almost the entire 2011-12 season Winnipeg battled Washington for one of the last spots in the Eastern Conference playoff field, the Jets falling just short while the Caps snuck into the seventh spot. Forward Evander Kane built a reputation as a new Cap-killer, with three goals and one assist, including a game-winning goal, in six games.

The Jets, like the Lightning, made a significant addition without much in the way of subtraction. Olli Jokinen was the top center available from an admittedly weak class at that position, and the Caps are well-acquainted with him from his time with the Panthers. Backup goaltender Chris Mason is gone, putting more pressure on the shoulders of Ondrej Pavelec, who inked a five-year contract extension over the summer prior to becoming a restricted free agent. Last season Pavelec played a career high 68 games, recording a 29-28-0-9 record.

Former Cap Eric Fehr, who had a disappointing two-goal, one-assist season cut short by continued shoulder injuries. Fehr, a Manitoba native, was the type of good-vibes story the Jets were looking for last season in the NHL’s return to Winnipeg. With a year under their belt the team is now just an organization with a five-year playoff drought. The Jets got a little bit stronger this offseason, but so did the rest of the division. Most importantly, the shortened season and therefore the division-only schedule will crush Winnipeg, who will have to fly across the continent for every road game this season. That will be too much to overcome and will see the Jets finish at the bottom of the Southeast, though not in the dregs of the Eastern Conference.

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.

CAPS: Free Glory Days Wings – April 5

Good News Caps Fans – As part of Fan Appreciation Week, everyone in attendance for the Washington Capitals home game hosting the Florida Panthers on Thursday, April 5, 2012 gets free wings from Glory Days!


Glory Days are back again with the free wings promotion! All season long, when the Caps score five (5) or more goals during a home game, bring your ticket stub to any participating Glory Days Grill location and receive FREE wings with any purchase! When the Caps score…you score! There are days, and there are Glory Days!® Dine in only.  Limit one ticket per customer.

Caps in Advance: Week 26

Five months, 25 weeks, 79 games…the Washington Capitals’ entire season boils down to what happens in the last week of the season.

With three games remaining, Washington’s playoff future is still very much up in the air. Depending on how this week shakes out, the Caps could squeak into the playoffs as a 7 or 8 seed, win the Southeast Division and secure home ice as the 3 seed, or finish 9th in the Eastern Conference and miss the playoffs entirely.

While a large portion of the Caps’ possible playoff spots depends on the results earned by other teams, Washington controls its own destiny in terms of just getting into the postseason.

Any combination of four points won by Washington or lost by the Buffalo Sabres will clinch a playoff berth for the Caps. That means that the Caps could make it in without a win, if Buffalo chokes away two of its last three games, but there’s no doubt Dale Hunter’s squad would far prefer to win at least two of its final three to guarantee the playoffs on its own terms. [Read more...]

Quiet Southeast Division at NHL Trade Deadline

By now, everyone knows that Washington Capitals GM George McPhee decided to stand pat with his current roster at the trade deadline on Monday rather than “sell the farm” of talented youngsters and upcoming prospects for a potential rental who might help the team in a playoff push.

It’s certainly shaping up to be an extremely tight race to the finish – as of this writing, the Caps are only three points behind Florida out of first in the division and Winnipeg trails Washington by one measly point for the eighth spot in the conference. This year’s trade deadline turned out to be much ado about nothing, with rumors of blockbuster trades rapidly dissipating as the clock ticked closer to 3 p.m. [Read more...]

GAME 57 RE-CAP: Caps wear down Panthers for 2-1 road win

The Washington Capitals were out-shooting and out-hitting the competition with little to show for it and it looked like they were headed to an all too familiar road loss against their Southeast Division foe, the Florida Panthers.  But the game plan eventually wore out Florida, and Alexander Semin changed the script with a late goal, lifting the team to a much-needed 2-1 regulation win.

With the win, the Caps trail division-leading Florida by just two points.

Trailing 1-0 at the start of the third period, the Capitals rallied with two goals, a power play marker by captain Alex Ovechkin and Semin’s slick wrist shot — deflected by a Panther defender — just over the outstretched arm of former Caps goalie Jose Theodore, giving the Caps their first lead of the game with less than seven-and-a-half minutes remaining. [Read more...]

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