One-timers: Caps’ strong start dampened by tough finish in Ottawa

January 30, 2013
(Blair Gable/Reuters) The puck passes through Michal Neuvirth for a goal by Senators forward Jim O'Brien late in the second period. (Blair Gable/Reuters) The puck passes through Michal Neuvirth for a goal by Senators forward Jim O’Brien late in the second period.

With 48 games in 99 days, there’s not a lot of time to digest what happened in any single contest. So as we churn through this compressed Capitals season, I’ll be rounding up my thoughts and analysis of each game here.

>>Coach Adam Oates has talked a lot about method and winning the “right” way over the past several days. He knows it’s going to take time for the players to be all on the same page for 60 minutes with his game plan and wants to see progress in moving toward that.

He certainly got it in Ottawa. The Capitals showed they could execute his game plan for the first 38 minutes. When the Senators pushed for the comeback in the third period, though, Washington stopped doing what got it to that point. Being able to fall back on the system in the face of adversity is something that will have to come with time.

Several players said they felt as though the team shook off Ottawa’s late goal by Jim O’Brien in the second period that cut the score to 2-1. It wasn’t enough to withstand the push from the Senators, who were given fresh hope heading into the third by that tally.

“We did a lot of good things,” Oates said following the 3-2 loss to the Senators Tuesday. “It’s tough they got one at the end of the second, but you’ve got to be a strong enough team to handle that.”

>>There was no consoling Joel Ward in the visitors’ dressing room at Scotiabank Place following the loss. He was whistled on a questionable high-sticking call at 16:24 of the third that led to Sergei Gonchar’s game-winning power-play goal, and whether the play should have resulted in a penalty or not, it was clear Ward felt like he let his teammates down.

As Capitals’ equipment staff packed up gear and reporters huddled around players asking questions, Ward sat leaned back in his stall, staring blankly into the middle of the room at nothing in particular. As the rest of his teammates filed out of the room, Ward walked down the tunnel back toward the bench and remained there for several minutes, staring up at the arena ceiling.

“I was just keeping the puck in, told [the referee] it was a follow through,” Ward said of the penalty. “He just said I didn’t attempt to hit the puck. I don’t know, he called it and the next thing I knew, I had to go to the box.”

While reminiscent of his double-minor for high sticking in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semifinal last year against the New York Rangers, Ward’s play against the Senators was less of a clear-cut penalty.

Ward was working the cycle down low when his follow through caught Ottawa defenseman Patrick Wiercioch up high. It wasn’t part of a shooting motion, however, so it technically warrants a penalty.

From the NHL rulebook:

Rule 60 – High-sticking: A “high stick” is one which is carried above the height of the opponent’s shoulders. Players must be in control and responsible for their stick. However, a player is permitted accidental contact on an opponent if the act is committed as a normal windup or follow through of a shooting motion, or accidental contact on the opposing center who is bent over during the course of a face-off. A wild swing at a bouncing puck would not be considered a normal windup or follow through and any contact to an opponent above the height of the shoulders shall be penalized accordingly.

>>This was the type of loss that afterward, every player felt like he could have done something differently that would have led to a better result.

Ward wanted the penalty back, Alex Ovechkin noted how he didn’t take advantage of a few scoring chances before Ward’s penalty set up the go-ahead goal, and Matt Hendricks lamented not blocking Gonchar’s shot on the penalty kill.

“I’ve got to block that shot. It hits my shin pad and redirects into the net,” Hendricks said. “I can’t let that happen.”

>>Have to think that Mathieu Perreault’s pair of unnecessary penalties against the Senators didn’t strengthen his case for more ice time and more responsibility.

Since he complained about a lack of ice time following the first two games of the season, Perreault has appeared in three of four contests and played no less than 9 minutes, 9 seconds.

He’s also been on the ice for two even-strength goals against (one each against Montreal and Buffalo) and taken three penalties (two against Ottawa, one against Montreal).While Perreault’s offensive abilities can be an asset, it’s not enough to mask the lack of discipline and occasional ineffectiveness in his own zone.

Will he get a third consecutive game in the lineup Thursday against Toronto? Or will Oates perhaps switch him out for Marcus Johansson, who was a healthy scratch the past two games?

>>Michal Neuvirth admitted he would have liked Milan Michalek’s goal that tied the game at 2-2 back. The tally came quick off a faceoff early in the third period as Michalek beat Tomas Kundratek to the puck after Nicklas Backstrom won the draw and seemed to catch Neuvirth off guard. The goaltender never reacted to the play.

“It’s always tough when you’re not facing a lot of shots,” Neuvirth said. “It’s tough to stay focused. Obviously I would like to have the second goal but I thought we played good as a team and we’ve got to keep doing that.”

Even before the Ottawa game, it seemed likely that Braden Holtby might get the nod against the Maple Leafs Thursday. With back-to-back games at Toronto and then home against Philadelphia Friday, followed by four games in the next eight days, it’s important to keep both goaltenders fresh.

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