The Washington Capitals had been playing their best hockey of the year, winning three straight, including the first two games of a five-game trip through western Canada. But Saturday night in Calgary, that good play came to a screeching halt as the Caps were outplayed much of the night by the Flames, and fell 5-2 before a full house at the renovated Saddledome.
With the loss, the Caps fall back below .500 at 5-6-0.
Braden Holtby was pulled less than 13 minutes into the game, while Jason Chimera and Aaron Volpatti were the only Caps to score. That right there should tell you something about the Caps’ fortunes in this one.
Calgary got on the board before most folks were settled in their seats. Former Caps D-man Dennis Wideman was able to keep a puck in along the right boards on the first shift of the game. Michael Cammalleri threw a weak shot toward the Caps goal that John Carlson knocked down, but did not control. The puck popped out to Kris Wilson at the left point and Wilson wristed a shot past Carlson, who made a half-hearted attempt to block the shot, and it sailed past Holtby to the glove side at 1:04.
Jiri Hudler made it 2-0 several minutes later. Sven Baertschi came in 1-on-3 and was able to hold the puck long enough for Sean Monahan and Hudler to join him. Monahan chipped one to the net and Hudler, behind defensemen Mike Green and Steve Oleksy, batted it past Holtby, who looked like he didn’t know were the puck was.
Calgary had the game’s first eight shots.
Jason Chimera got the Caps on the board a little while later. Chimera and Fehr did a nice job on the cycle, and the puck came out to Mikhail Grabovski in the high slot, which drew three defenders, allowing Chimera to slide in behind them. Grabovski found Chimera and the Alberta native calmly waited for Karri Ramo to commit, then lifted a nifty backhand past him for his second goal in two nights.
The good vibrations didn’t last long.
Just 48 seconds later, Cammalleri defected Wideman’s wrist shot from the point, and it went under Holtby’s blocker for a 3-1 Calgary lead. At that point, head coach Adam Oates lifted Holtby as much to shake things up as it was for Holtby’s play, which was not stellar after three terrific outings.
“Looking for a spark,” coach Adam Oates said. “Three goals. We started lousy. We got one to make it 2-1 and then the third one. We were just looking for something.”
The Caps cut the deficit to 3-2 midway through the second stanza. Nate Schmidt took a blast from the left point that Ramo kicked out into the center of the ice, where Aaron Volpatti was standing alone. Volpatti didn’t get much on the shot, but it fooled Ramo, and the puck trickled between his pads for Volpatti’s first of the season.
The score stayed that way until midway through the third period, when it looked like the Caps simply ran out of gas. Cammalleri collected a loose puck off a faceoff in the right wing circle and calmly skated undefended to the end line, where he flicked one toward Michal Neuvirth (17 saves). Somehow, the puck got through Neuvirth and as he tried to cover he actually kicked the puck in the net with his own foot.
A short time late, T.J. Galiardi carried in the Caps zone on a Calgary line change 1-on-4. Somehow, Green lost track of him and Galiardi slid the puck to Matt Stajan. who found a streaking — and wide open — Curtis Glencross. Glencross made no doubt about it, rifling it past Neuvirth to close the scoring.
The Caps vaunted power play was 0-for-4, managing seven shots on goal in the process. They were 26-31 in the faceoff circle. The Caps’ top line was neutralized all evening. Alex Ovechkin had five shots on goal, six attempts blocked and another four that missed the target.
Washington travels to Vancouver to play the Canucks Monday night at 10:00 Eastern.