Capitals' Power Play Struggles in Loss at Calgary

Goaltender Jose Theodore is solid with 18 saves, but the Capitals open a three-game road trip with a loss.
Goaltender Jose Theodore is solid with 18 saves, but the Capitals open a three-game road trip with a loss. (Jeff McIntosh - AP)
By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 22, 2008

CALGARY, Oct. 21 -- Based on the number of elite scorers on the roster, the Washington Capitals should have one of the best power plays in the league.

With names like Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Semin, Mike Green and Michael Nylander, there's absolutely no reason the unit should have nights such as Tuesday at the Saddledome, where they sputtered once again on the man advantage and lost, 2-1, to the previously struggling Calgary Flames.

The Capitals failed to score on five power-play opportunities, including a seven-minute stretch in the first period. Ovechkin called the performance unacceptable and Coach Bruce Boudreau promised changes if certain players don't start executing the game plan.

"We try to play so fancy, our big mistake," said Ovechkin, who went without a goal for the fifth time in six games as the Capitals fell to 3-2-1. "We know we have some great skills. But we try to create some crazy moments, play beautiful hockey."

Boudreau also did not mince words after the Capitals' first loss to the Flames since 1999, a span of nine games.

"I don't know what's happened all of a sudden to the power play," he said. "The next thing is to not put them on the ice, to get the point across. We're trying to be so damn cute all the time. You don't get goals like that. When you can't score on the power play in this league, you're going to be in trouble."

The power play is 5 for 32 this season, a paltry 15.6 percent effectiveness rate. Tuesday's disappointment came three days after they went 1 for 8 in a 4-3 shootout loss to New Jersey.

"We're just not doing what we're supposed to," defenseman Mike Green said. "We got to get it set up and then make plays from there. We're drifting, then looking for passes. It's not the way to get it done. We're all over the place. We have to figure it out here.

He could have been referring to any number of issues. Establishing a consistent point shot. Putting pucks on net. Crashing the net in search of rebounds. Outworking the opposing team.

Correcting those problems -- or perhaps shaking up the unit personnel-wise -- likely will be among Boudreau's top priorities when the team gathers for practice in Phoenix on Wednesday afternoon.

The Capitals' problems began early against the Flames, whose coach, Mike Keenan, called an impromptu team meeting this morning after watching his team blow leads in four previous games.

Capitals defenseman Tyler Sloan, who at age 27 made his NHL debut in his home town, leveled Flames center Daymond Langkow, who had his head down, with a highlight-quality shoulder check in open ice. Rene Bourque raced to his teammate's defense, taking down Sloan and pummeling him with several punches to the back of the helmet.

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