Sharks 3, Capitals 2
Jaromir Jagr sent his arms to the heavens with 20 seconds left in regulation last night, celebrating what he believed was a dramatic power-play goal to tie the game. The puck had struck both posts and bounced out, however, and when it made its way back to Jagr with five seconds to play San Jose goalie Evgeni Nabokov dived face-first and stopped Washington's 48th and final shot of the game.
The Capitals (8-9-2, winless in four games) came agonizingly close to earning a point in this 3-2 loss at MCI Center, but were ultimately foiled by bad breaks, superb goaltending and their own failure to capitalize on sterling opportunities. They set a season high for shots on goal in a game and twice set season marks for most shots in a period -- 18 in the first period and 20 in the third period -- but went 1 for 9 on the power play and were held to less than three goals for the 15th time in 19 games.
"I don't know how it did not go in," Jagr said, still in a daze in front of his locker long after his last attempts failed to produce a goal. "I have to score that. I had a lot of chances tonight [eight shots on goal] and just [messed] up."
Washington has scored just 40 goals this season -- its tepid attack is tied for second worst in the NHL in goals per game -- but had never looked as potent as last night, sending droves of shots at Nabokov. The Capitals trailed 2-0 entering the third period and were mired in a brutal scoring drought when Michael Nylander provided a wealth of relief.
The Capitals were on their second extended five-on-three power play when Nylander's high wrist shot cut the deficit in half. Nylander's first goal as a Capital, and first goal in 21 games dating from last season, snapped Washington's goalless slide at 129 minutes 20 seconds -- a span of six complete periods and one overtime session. It ended a span of 16 straight blown power plays as well (part of an 8-for-71 funk).
Steve Konowalchuk quickly sapped Washington's momentum with a retaliatory penalty, however, shoving Owen Nolan after a collision and Nabokov made huge saves on Mike Grier and Peter Bondra before Nolan restored the two-goal lead with a power play goal with about 11 minutes left. Grier scored from close range a few minutes later to get Washington close, but Konowalchuk's rare indiscretion loomed large.
"Sure I regret it," Konowalchuk said. "I know the guy dived -- 250-pound guys don't fall over that easily -- but I should know better in that situation."
"We addressed it," Coach Bruce Cassidy said. "He's the captain of our team. Did he cost us a hockey game? No. But if you look at the big picture. . . . "
Cassidy, facing his coaching mentor, San Jose's Darryl Sutter, got almost everything he wanted from his team last night. Washington dominated the first period -- where it often struggles -- and scored just one near goal. Robert Lang was judged to have kicked a puck in the net, although he said he was trying to merely settle the puck.
"I can't understand why that was called off," Cassidy said. "There was no distinct kicking motion."
Washington wasted a five-on-three early in the second period and San Jose struck seconds after that power play expired. Defenseman Jean-Francois Fortin failed to win a loose puck from Teemu Selanne, missing with a poke check and falling as the speedster tore around the net and beat Olaf Kolzig on a wraparound. (Washington is 3-8-1 when failing to score first.)
"A couple of individual mistakes cost us tonight," Cassidy said.
Jagr immediately took a four-minute high sticking penalty and Patrick Marleau converted on the power play to make it 2-0 midway through the game. Kolzig kept his team in the game for a spell and the Capitals continued to mount shots and chances, but not enough goals.
"Every team goes through a stretch during the season where you just can't put the puck in the ocean," Kolzig said, "and we're going though that right now. But if we play like we did tonight . . . we're definitely going to win more than we lose."