Before the Hershey Bears took the ice Saturday night against the Lehigh...
Capitals Can’t Close Against Possible Playoff Opponent
Though Michal Neuvirth won first star of the game, the Capitals lone goal was much thanks to the effort put out by Marcus Johansson. Photo by Taylor Lewis
After Tuesday’s electrifying win over the Winnipeg Jets, the Capitals treated fans to something a little less than on Thursday. With the Southeast secured, Washington came out flat in a 2-1 overtime loss against potential playoff opponents, the Ottawa Senators.
“We played two nights ago, it was pretty electric in here. We had to try and let that go and get ready for tonight,” said coach Adam Oates.
With Ottawa’s defensive superstar Erik Karlsson back in the lineup, the Capitals would have to be extra aware. But what lagged on for more than two periods had all but the most devoted fans more concentrated on their beer and hot dogs than the game.
Scrums throughout the first period were generally mediocre. But as Washington buzzed around the offensive zone, Chris Neil took to agitating, ultimately taking a boarding penalty.
“He’s a guy that you try to get under his skin a little bit…I don’t think he’s as bad as some of the guys, but he got our attention tonight,” admitted Karl Alzner of the effect Neil had throughout the game.
But it was Ottawa’s defense that proved to be the deciding factor. A two-on-one with Marcus Johansson on the left wing and Nicklas Backstrom skating down center fell flat after Backstrom struggled to get a handle on the puck with an Ottawa defender in front of him. And when the puck did get to the NHL’s goals-against-average (1.68) and save percentage (.942) leader Craig Anderson, there was little room to score.
Washington held a slight lead in shots after the first (10-7), with the Senators equaling it by the end of the second period (16-16). One of those was a goal tipped in by winger Jakob Silfverberg off a shot by Karlsson.
Michal Neuvirth, in his 13th game this season, would ultimately see 41 shots. “Every goalie likes facing a lot of shots than just standing and watching what’s going on at the other end,” said the 25-year-old.
The Capitals, on the other hand, would be limited to just four in the third period. The hard work of Johansson paid off on one, as he slid the puck across the ice, the black rubber bouncing over the stick of Chris Philips and onto captain Alex Ovechkin’s stick. Freezing Anderson as he skated across the crease, Ovechkin slid the puck in before twirling down onto the ice.
But Washington would stall themselves from a complete comeback, taking five penalties to Ottawa’s one.
“We shot ourselves in the foot with penalties and we couldn’t get any momentum. That’s just the way the game goes and we know better,” said defenseman Mike Green.
The final calls, a roughing minor on Mike Ribeiro and a 10-minute misconduct on Jason Chimera, ultimately cost the Capitals from getting two points. With the penalties carrying over into overtime, Ottawa coach Paul McLean sent out a unit of Karlsson, Sergei Gonchar, Daniel Alfredsson and Mika Zibanejad. Coming to the top of the right faceoff circle, Gonchar took a second with the puck before sending it past Neuvirth.
The loss completes the season series, with Washington losing all three contests. Though the Capitals would face Alfredsson and company if the playoffs started today, Ottawa has two games left to jostle for seeding.
Concerning getting a win Senators, as Green put it, the playoffs, “would be a good time start.”