BACKSTROM HURT; WINNIPEG TRIMS DIVISION LEAD TO TWO POINTS
It had to end sometime.
The Washington Capitals, one of the hottest teams in hockey the last three weeks, rode into Ottawa to face a tough Senators team on the back on an eight-game winning streak, fueled by the league’s most dangerous power play and solid goaltending. Unfortunately, the team looked sluggish and was outplayed and beaten in just about every aspect of the game by a team that could very well be their first-round playoff draw — if the Caps can hold off the competition for first place in the Southeast.
Indicative of how badly the Caps were outplayed, they were outshot by the Senators 38-19 — including 11-4 in the first period.
To add injury to insult, center Nick Backstrom missed the last 7:16 of the game with an undisclosed upper body injury, thought to have been sustained when hit in the arm with an errant Mike Green shot midway through the final frame.
The teams played an ugly, uneven first period, with neither team generating any semblance of offense. In the second, the Sens started the scoring just 1:15 in, when Kyle Turris beat Braden Holtby from along the boards with an innocent-enough looking shot to his blocker side. Holtby appeared to look to the heavens in exasperation as the puck sailed past him.
The Caps knotted things up at 11;14, as Mike Ribeiro continued his career year by knocking in a bouncing puck past Sens goalie Craig Anderson. But the tie didn’t last long.
Two minutes after Ribeiro evened things up, Holtby tried to play a puck behind his net and back out the other side to Karl Alzner. Unfortunately, Holtby’s pass was off the mark and ended up right on the tape of Sens forward Cory Conacher, who snapped it into the unattended goal before Holtby could get back to his post.
That score stood until little more than one minute remaining, when Ottawa added an empty-net goal after the Caps lost the offensive-zone draw with six skaters. For the night, the Caps were beat in the faceoff circle, winning just 38 percent of the draws.
Though Holtby could be assigned direct blame on both goals, no one should hang the loss on the Caps goalie. This was a team-wide lackluster effort.
It’s bound to happen at some point after such a lengthy winning streak, but the Caps can ill afford to let up with the Winnipeg Jets breathing down their necks. The Jets cut the Caps lead in the division to two points with a 4-3 overtime win over Carolina. There is no rest for the weary, at the Caps travel to Montreal for a 7:00 pm Saturday showdown with Les Habitent before next Tuesday’s all-important head-to-head matchup with Winnipeg.
All hands on deck from here on out, but if Backstrom’s injury is anything more than a bruise…