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Washington Capitals lose badly to San Jose Sharks, 5-2

San Jose's Ryane Clowe slides on the ice after being tripped by the Capitals' Mike Green. Clowe then scored on the ensuing penalty shot.
San Jose's Ryane Clowe slides on the ice after being tripped by the Capitals' Mike Green. Clowe then scored on the ensuing penalty shot. (Ben Margot/associated Press)
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Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 31, 2009

SAN JOSE - Two and a half months ago, the Washington Capitals hammered San Jose on home ice. On Wednesday, the high-powered Sharks got even at HP Pavilion, and in the process, extended a dubious drought for their guests.

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Joe Pavelski and Torrey Mitchell scored in the span of 75 seconds late in the first period, and Ryane Clowe and Joe Thornton each scored on penalty shots to lift the Western Conference-leading Sharks to a thorough 5-2 thumping of the Capitals.

San Jose's pair of penalty shots marked the first time since 1982 a team notched two in the same game. But they weren't the reason the Sharks kept the Capitals winless here for the 17th straight year (0-9-1).

"We weren't very good in the first period," said Coach Bruce Boudreau, whose team lost two games in a row in regulation for only the second time this season. "We were holding our own, but we weren't creating anything. Consequently we ended up with three shots on goal. If you end up with three shots on goal in a period, you're not going to win many hockey games."

The defeat also was the Capitals' second straight since Monday's trade with Columbus that sent captain Chris Clark and Milan Jurcina to the Blue Jackets in exchange for Jason Chimera, who notched a primary assist in his Capitals debut.

Boudreau put Chimera on the second line with Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Semin to start the game. But by the middle of the second period -- with the Capitals trailing 2-0 -- he reunited Alex Ovechkin with Backstrom and Semin in search of offense. But that spark never arrived.

Washington's power play went 0 for 4, including coming up empty on a 50-second two-man advantage early in the second period. Given the chance to cut their deficit in half, the Capitals mustered one shot on Evgeni Nabokov (24 saves) on that power play.

"That was a key point in the game, for sure," center Brendan Morrison said. "You get one [early] on the 5 on 3, then you're right back on the power play maybe."

Ovechkin said: "On the power [play] we try to make too many diagonal pass. We have to take a couple of shots [like Boudreau says]. You do that, and they start running around. But we tried to be so cute and it's just killing us."

Later in the second period, Clowe put the game out of reach with the first of the Sharks' penalty shots. Defenseman Mike Green had tripped Clowe on a breakaway, and the San Jose winger deked Michal Neuvirth (28 saves) and tucked his shot underneath the crossbar on Neuvirth's glove side to make it 3-0.

Mike Knuble broke through for the Capitals early in the third period when the net-crashing winger went to the crease and banged in a puck that Nabokov had lost in his skates. Chimera had surprised the Sharks goalie by firing a shot from a tight angle.

"When we made it 3-1 we were taking the game to them pretty well," Boudreau said. "But if we had done that in the second period, who knows? We're like a lot of good teams, we've got that quick strike abilities. But they snuffed it out by making it 4-1, preventing us from coming back."


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