The Swedish War Machine. (Photo credit: Joel Auerbach)
The Washington Capitals better get used to playing on the road. With 22 of their remaining games away from Verizon Center, the boys have to play with the discipline that was lacking tonight in tonight’s date with the Florida Panthers. The second consecutive meeting between the southeast rivals was decorated with twelve minor penalties, six apiece. But it was the Caps and their uncanny ability to place those penalties at the worst possible times that cost them the game.
The Panthers could have taken the Caps out entirely with three early goals by Santorelli, Reasoner, and Booth– two of those tallies thanks to two-man advantages. But the Caps rallied back with a pretty give-and-go and by Marcus Johansson via Laich and a Mike Knuble wrister off an Alex Ovechkin pass. MoJo struck again in the third with the tying goal, a crash-the-net maneuver that compelled Tomas Vokoun to bobble and release the puck into the net. In overtime, Mike Green’s hook put the Caps once more at a disadvantage, which Dennis Wideman exploited. Narf. Panthers beat Caps 4-3 (OT).
- The power play was 0 for 6 tonight. This is no longer a problem; it is a crisis. Alex Ovechkin and Mike Green have no problem cycling the puck below the blue line, but they’re incapable of creating scoring chances. There were only three over 10:19 of PP time. Measly.
- This bullet is dedicated to awfully timed penalties. Apparently dissatisfied with his crosscheck’s inability to ruin last game, Nick Backstrom chose tonight to board a dude during Mike Knuble‘s delayed penalty. That 2-minute 5-on-3 gave the Panthers their first of the night. John Carlson and Jason Chimera activated their wondertwin powers to serve up a second 5v3 for the Panthers. And then Mike “Game Over” Green lived up to his name by blatantly hooking Cory Stillman after Cory had already been refused by Neuvirth. Disgraceful.
- No hate on the PK unit though. 5-on-3 isn’t killing a penalty, it’s Pickett’s charge.
- Mike Knuble‘s 501st career point also provided goals in back-to-back games for the 8-19-22 trio. That’s only the third time the “top line” has scored in consecutive games, turning what should be a normal occasion into an event as rare as the Leonid meteor shower.
- Marcus Johansson, you meatball-eating qoH! Good work! The 20-year-old Swede had two goals tonight, one pretty and one gritty. He nearly tricked the hat, but Tomas Vokoun activated the nitro boosters in his glove hand just in time. Thanks for the point, kid.
- Let’s play “who’s the liability?” Nick Backstrom: on ice for all three shorthanded chances against. Hershey call-up Brian Willsie: on ice for one scoring chance for and five against. Jay Beagle: four chances for and only one against. Dangit, Jay. You’re not a liability at all! Get out of this bullet.
- Finally, Michal Neuvirth was awesome for a losing goalie. After not getting the nod for so long, New Bear didn’t hesitate to make huge saves when they counted. Giving up two to 5v3 and another to 4v3 shouldn’t keep Michal from sleeping well tonight. If the skaters worked as hard as he did, we’d probably be celebrating the first ever Ovechtrick right now.
The Caps probably didn’t deserve the point they took away from this game. They were way too awful for way too long to consider this a point well earned. A bad power play and a half dozen many penalties should sink any team on the road. So while we’re glad that Knuble and MJ90 were strong enough to drag everyone to overtime, the overt loss might have been a clearer message to the team’s “passengers”.
If the Caps bring tonight’s play with them to face either Tampa Bay tomorrow or the Canucks on Friday, it’ll be a disaster. I don’t know. Maybe I’m being overly harsh on a team that has gotten a standings point in all of the last nine games, but they’ll still a shadow of their former selves on offense. And in the end, it really comes down to those two or three guys who are sleepwalking through the season.
Wake up, comrades. It’s a brand new year. Time to scoar.
Additional reporting by Neil Greenberg.