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For the third straight game, the Washington Capitals have failed to stonewall their opponents in the third period. They came up a goal short in the last two. The latest was a 4-3 loss to the New York Rangers after they had built a lead with over ten minutes left in the final frame.
"Anytime you have a lead in the last ten minutes of the game you have to [win the game]," a visibly upset coach Bruce Boudreau said. "If you want to be a great team you have to."
The Capitals built a lead after a fluky goal let in by Ranger goaltender Henrik Lunqvist and a power play goal with just over 12 minutes to play in the game. But the Caps' defense took a turn for the worse allowing the tying goal just :18 seconds later.
"We've blown two leads... almost a third in four games," Boudreau was blunt. "It's really an upsetting trend that better stop in a hurry."
Nick Backstrom scored a pair of goals including one that was a dump in on Lundqvist from the red line. The puck seemed to hit the Rangers defenseman's skate and Lundqvist, who was square to the shot twisted a bit to try and glove the puck. But the puck went under the netminder's glove and into the corner of the net. Backstrom also scored a power play goal off of a well designed passing play from Brooks Laich and Alex Semin. Semin also made the score sheet with a goal and an assist. Alex Ovechkin was held pointless after three straight games in which he scored at least 3 points.
Backstrom is the first player in the NHL to have 10 points through the first four games in the season since Martin Havlat did it to start the '06-'07 year. But for Backstrom, stats just didn't mean much on a night the Caps took a loss.
"[The two goals I scored] didn't matter, we lost the game," Backstrom said. "We have to get back [to the way] we started the season. We have to play [for] sixty minutes. We can't just play a couple minutes a game. That is bad on us."
The game started on a good note for the Capitals. Brian Pothier created a passing lane with his ability to skate and found Semin cross ice to open the scoring for the home team. But the Rangers came back with Ryan Callahan goal that was practically a shorthanded goal and break down in the defensive zone goal by Ales Kotalik. The Rangers would take a 2-1 lead into the locker room after the second period.
When the third period started, the Rangers were in full defend-the-lead mode, shutting down passing lanes and blocking a slew of shots (22 blocked shots in all). But Backstrom's half court goal gave the Caps some life and the Rangers took a penalty soon afterward. Unlike the previous 7 tries, they were finally able to score on the power play with some nice passing. Backstrom again was the beneficiary.
But the Rangers answered back with Marion Gaborik who scored a pair of goals five hole on Jose Theodore to give the Rangers the lead with 9:18 left to play.
"There was time left," defenseman turned forward Tyler Sloan said. "You can't get down. The bench has got to stay up to come back the next shift and stay aggressive and try to create chances. We didn't do that, I felt."
The Caps' power play sputtered again for the second straight game. They were a pitiful 1 for 9 with the extra man, including 1:33 with a two man advantage. The top power play line once again has fallen into bad habits, being too cute with the puck at the wrong times and allowing the other team's PK unit out work them.
"We played as individuals instead of a unit," Boudreau commented on the Caps listless power play. "If you are going to play as individuals, you are going to get individual results and nothing is going to happen."
After such a good start against Boston, the Capitals seemed to fallen back to being too cavalier on defense. A defense core that doesn't have youth as an excuse anymore. A point that Boudreau brought up in his press conference.
"The guys that are making the mistakes are not first year guys," Boudreau said. "They are the guys that have been here for 10 years, 5 years... and it's been what their jobs are. There is not one first year guy on defense... these guys should know what the hell they're doing."
Caps Game Notes:
- Sloan played his first game in the NHL as a forward on the fourth line. "[It's a] position that is foreign to me, I haven't played [forward] in a long time" he said. "But I settled in [during] the second and third period."
- Mike Green has yet to score a goal this season. Not for lack of trying. Green had thirteen shots that either missed the net or were blocked (7 blocked, 6 misses). Only two of his shots hit the mark, both were saved by Lundqvist.
- The Rangers' Sean Avery sat this game out, but that didn't stop him from signing some autographs for Rangers' fans from the Press Box.