Friday, January 25, 2013

Horseshoes And Hand Grenades

Capitals 2, Devils 3 OT
Game Summary - Event Summary

It looked as if the Washington Capitals' string of bad luck would continue. But some late help from the Devils by taking a few penalties themselves helped the Capitals crawl back in. It would go to overtime and the Caps would fall to the New Jersey Devils in the extra frame 3-2.

"Everybody worked for sixty minutes," head coach Adam Oates said. "We played a much much better hockey game."

Mike Ribeiro got his first goal as a Washington Capital when the Devils took some bad penalties midway through the third period. On a long 5 on 3, Ribeiro finished off a nice tic-tac-toe play from Joel Ward and Mike Green. Green would complete the regulation come back with his tying goal just over three minutes to play.

"Even though we lost, it was a good game for us to see how we are supposed to play to win," Ribeiro said of the positives. "By doing that, I think I will play better and other guys will step up and play better."

Now showing some competitive signs of life, the Capitals still have a long way to go. They would fall behind by more than a goal again by taking some dumb penalties. They would once again find themselves down two men when the Devils already had a 1-0 lead. The Capitals have yet to kill off a 5 on 3 this season, tonight was no different.

Martin Brodeur looked like he could add another notch on his shut out bed post. The Devils though took a series of bad penalties that killed their momentum in the third period. It would lead to a long two man advantage that the second unit capitalized on. Ribeiro's first goal of the game was a nice tape to tape from Green and Ward. They would have a second opportunity to score with an extra two men, but the Devils did a good job killing off the remaining penalties.

Michal Neuvirth was lights out fantastic in this tilt. When the defensive break downs occurred, even when the Caps were on the power play, Neuvirth came up with the big stop. He turned aside more than a couple break away chances and kept his team in it for 60 minutes. He would be beat by a defensive breakdown in overtime that left Ilya Kovalchuk wide open on the far side.

"He played great, both goaltenders played great," said Oates of his thoughts on Neuvirth. "He really gave us a chance."

The Capitals would work off that momentum to create some headaches for the Devils' defensemen. After a few bad give aways, Green had three shots in a row before finally beating Brodeur on the stick side and sending the game to overtime.

Oates did mix up his lines. He had Joey Crabb, Jay Beagle and Alex Ovechkin starting on a line together. In an effort to find chemistry, the head coach wasn't afraid to blow up lines when given the chance. He also healthy scratched Mathieu Perreault, Tom Poti and Roman Hamrlik. That opened spots for Eric Fehr and John Erskine. 

The Caps' special teams still needs work. The penalty kill was at times brilliant in the overtime period. Down to a 4 on 3, with the combination of some timely saves by Neuvirth and some good work to detail by the defenders, the Caps tried to build off of that momentum in overtime. At other times, there were still problems with players picking up their assignments correctly that led to the 5 on 3 goal in the second period.

The power play still needs some tweaking. While the 1-3-1 is being strictly adhered to by the Capitals, there seems to be elements missing from the extra man attack. While the passing at times is erratic and sloppy, they players seem content not to move too much from their positions to create movement with the PP. It is still a work in progress.

There is a moral victory here for the Capitals. A light at the end of the tunnel that says if you stick with the system, you will be rewarded. As players start to feel more comfortable with their roles it will be easier for the team to transition to a sloppy brand of play to a more cohesive unit. It is a loss, but there is much to grow on.

Caps Notes:
  • Mike Green's first points of the year, an assist on Ribeiro's power play goal and the game tying goal. 
  • Peter DeBoer, Devils head coach, admitted he might have said something to the officials to earn the extra unsportsmanlike penalty that put the Devils down two men twice in the third. 
  • The Capitals were the last team in the NHL to earn a standings point. It is also the first game a Caps' player earned a star of the game. Green was given the game's second star.

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