Capitals Again Have No Shot, Lose Second Straight Game

Capitals goalie Brent Johnson watches the scoreboard replay of the Buffalo Sabres' seventh goal on Saturday.
Capitals goalie Brent Johnson watches the scoreboard replay of the Buffalo Sabres' seventh goal on Saturday. (Don Heupel - AP Photo)
By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, October 14, 2007

BUFFALO, Oct. 13 -- For nearly half of Saturday night's game, Washington Capitals goaltender Brent Johnson bailed out his teammates as the Buffalo Sabres peppered the visitors' goal at HSBC Arena.

But even as Johnson helped them cling to a one-goal lead, there was a sense of impending doom for the Capitals, that it was only a matter of time before the Sabres turned their huge shot advantage into a big lead on the scoreboard.

That finally happened late in the second period.

The Sabres scored four times in less than five minutes, including twice in 11 seconds, and they went on to hand the Capitals their second loss in 48 hours, 7-3, before a sellout crowd.

"After they started coming at us hard in the second period, it was almost unbearable for a little bit," said Johnson, who fell to 1-1. "It felt like the ice was tilted the other way. We have to look at this game and the last game and figure things out."

So much for Washington's 3-0 start. The defeat continued a troubling trend for the Capitals, who have been badly outplayed in each of the past three games. On Monday, they eked out a 2-1 victory against the Islanders despite being outshot 31-12. On Saturday, the Rangers finished with a 41-25 advantage and won handily, 3-1.

The disparity was much worse against Jaroslav Spacek (two goals), Brian Campbell (one goal, three assists) and the rest of the speedy Sabres, who held a 13-4 advantage in shots after 20 minutes and a 37-10 edge after 40 minutes. By the time the final horn mercifully sounded, the shot clock showed the Sabres ahead 53-26. It was the most shots yielded by the Capitals since they allowed 54 in a 7-3 loss at Florida last January.

"We've gone from controlling the puck and making the right plays to turning the puck over and making high risk plays," Coach Glen Hanlon said. "That's the third game in a row where we've been embarrassingly outshot. We're missing a couple of players, but not enough to make that big of a difference."

Hanlon was referring to Alexander Semin and his 38 goals last season (sprained right ankle) and checking-line center Boyd Gordon (back spasms), who both remained out of the lineup. It's possible both players could return for the next game, Thursday against the Islanders.

Until then, the Capitals likely will work on execution in practice. Because for the third consecutive contest, they strayed from the game plan, committed far too many turnovers in the neutral zone, attempted too many cute plays in the offensive zone and struggled to get the puck out of their end. They also didn't shoot the puck enough and took some ill-advised penalties.

"We've added more skill this year, but we're still a hard-nosed hockey team," forward Brooks Laich said. "We're trying to make plays in the neutral zone, through legs and sticks. That's not our style of game."

Hanlon was upset with the effort, but said it's too early to panic.

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