Friday, November 21, 2008

Injury Depleted Caps Outplayed By Kings, Lose 5 - 2

Last night's game against the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center was a ZERO, NADA, NO point night for the Washington Capitals. The Caps were beaten by solid play and hard work by the Los Angeles However, a large part of the story was who did NOT play on "Russian Heritage Night due to injuries for the Capitals: Brian Pothier; Sergei Federov; Alexander Semin; and Mike Green. So two of Washington's three Russian stars were on the sidelines tonight, as was their star Defenseman; and they were playing for the second night in a row - they were indeed vulnerable. How things would play out with the once again slightly shuffled defensive pairings was a question before the game started. The Caps lineup for the game looked like this:

Poti - Sloan
Schultz - Morrisonn
Erskine - Jurcina

The Line-up for the Kings was:

O' Sullivan - Kopitar - Brown
Frolov - Stoll - Moller
Calder - Handzus - Simmonds
Ivanans - Boyle - Zeiler
O'Donnell - Doughty
Greene- Quincey
Preissing - Gauthier


Both teams seemed to start the game playing tentatively. In the first 8 minutes of the game the Kings out shot the Caps 5-3. At 13:58 into the period, Kings rookie defenseman, Drew Doughty put a slap shot on net that was deflected by Alex Ovechkin's stick, when he tried to block it, by Brent Johnson to put the Kings up 1 -0. At the 16:29 mark the Caps went on the power play when Brian Boyle hooked Dave Steckel. Up to that point the Kings had been outplaying and out shooting the Caps (12-2). The Kings penalty kill unit just did a great job collapsing in front of Ersberg and disrupting the Caps power play unit. The Caps had life at the end of the period but really never exerted much pressure on Kings goalie Erik Ersberg. At the end of one it was Kings 1 - Caps 0. The Kings had out shot the Caps 12 -3. Without Mike Green in the lineup, the Caps power play had a couple of opportunities in their two chances but never really got going in the first period. This was as much the Kings doing, with excellent penalty killing as anything else. All three of the Caps shots on Ersberg were by OV, on the power play. The Kings were just somehow able to just smother the Caps.

The second period started with both teams at even strength and the game went back and forth until 3:54 when the Caps got a 5 on 3 power play. The Caps power play got some real good play making and patience until at 4:48 Nicklas Backstrom banged home as forehand writer from a good feed by Viktor Kozlov and Alexander Ovechkin. Then the second power play unit came out and once again, as on Wednesday evening, Michael Nylander couldn't get anything going as the pivot on the 5 on 4. However, up to that point the Kings penalty kill unit did a great job and pretty much tied up any 5 on 4 power play unit the Caps put out there. The penalties ended with the score tied at 1-1. After the 5 on 3 was over, the Caps seemed to turn up the pressure for the next five minutes but the Kings were able to hold them off. Then at 10:17 Chris Clark was whistled off for Tripping Alexander Frolov. Then Dave Steckel high sticked Dustin Brown at 10:53 giving the Kings a 5 on 3 for 1:25. Somehow the Caps killed off the 5 on 3 without allowing a goal. Brooks Laich had three blocked shots over a span of 30 seconds when he played without a stick. At about the 15:30 mark, John Erskine got tangled up deep in the Kings zone and they got a breakout that exerted pressure on the Caps and Brent Johnson, while rushing back to help out Eric Fehr committed hooking penalty giving the Kings another power play. The Caps killed the penalty off and Dave Steckel found Eric Fehr out of the box but Fehr couldn't pull the trigger before he was tied up by the Kings smothering defense. Unfortunately, shortly after that Kings' defenseman Matt Greene found Patrick O'Sullivan with a nice outlet pass. O'Sullivan came down the right side and let loose a slick wrister from the center of the face off circle between Milan Jurcina's legs and past Brent Johnson to put the Kings back on top 2 - 1. At the end of the second period the shots on goal differential continued to heavily favor Los Angeles: Kings 23 SOG, Caps 9 SOG. The Caps looked a little sluggish at times and when they didn't LA either put on a "full court press" or collapsed around Erik Ersberg. At the end of two the Caps were fortunate to still be within "striking distance" of a win. Through two periods the Kings out hit the Caps 28 - 18; the Caps had 12 giveaways to the Kings 8; the Kings had 6 takeaways to the Caps 3, and finally the Kings had 12 blocked shots to the Caps 8. Through two periods the Kings had won 18 face offs and lost 16. At the end of two, it was unclear how the Caps were going to get things going their way and even try to take control of the game so they might capture even 1 point.

During the first six minutes of the third period, both teams once again tried to establish themselves as dominant. The game got a lot more physical, however neither team really took control of the game and the play continued to go back and forth. Then at about the 10:30 mark of the period the Caps kicked it up a notch with their forecheck and started creating some scoring chances. However at 12:54 Dustin Brown drew an interference penalty on Alex Ovechkin and then Brown scored a power play goal to put the Kings up 3-1 a minute later. OV was clearly upset with the call and when he left the penalty box he once again tried to plead his case to the referee; of course, it was at least 1:05 too late for that. After that the Caps responded at 15:25 when Brooks Laich got a goal on a rebound from a Michael Nylander shot. Unfortunately right after that at 15:51 Chris Clark put the puck over the glass and got a two minute delay of game penalty, though it was questionable as he had at least one foot on the blue line. The Caps killed off the penalty but ultimately gave up an empty netter to put the Kings up 4 -2 at 19:20 to Michal Handzus, and then another one at the buzzer Anze Kopitar . While the Caps were coming off a hard fought game with the Ducks on the prior night, you should take nothing away from the LA Kings, they played an excellent game and basically outplayed the Caps in virtually every statistical category. Also you have to love the quality of play and maturity that Kings rookie defenseman Drew Doughty played with all night.

All you can do after a game like that is move on and get ready for your next opponent. There were some bright spots, Brent Johnson handled 28 of 38 shots for a SV% of 0.903 in his first game back from being injured; Tyler Sloan blocked 6 shots; in the stats sheet Brooks Laich blocked 2 shots but I counted 3 and scored a solid goal to pull the Caps to within one; and Viktor Kozlov has clearly elevated his game and wants to stay on the first line even when Alexander Semin gets back in the lineup.. Next up the league leading San Jose Sharks on Saturday evening. The Sharks are 16-3-1 overall so far this season and are the only other team, besides the Capitals who are unbeaten in regulation at home this season with a record of 10-0-1. Hopefully at least one of the three - Semin, Federov, or Green - will be back in the lineup because the Caps are going to need as much firepower as they can get to beat the Sharks.

No comments: