Caps Get A Flat Tire (Again) Against The Pens: Fall 5-2
(Photo via Justin K. Aller)
The season hasn’t exactly started the way the Washington Capitals had hoped. When the team hired head coach Adam Oates over the summer, the buzz in D.C. was electric. Alex Ovechkin heaped praise on the former New Jersey Devils assistant, saying he felt he would be less reined in than he was under Dale Hunter. What Ovechkin and his team didn’t know was that a half-season long lockout would stunt their learning curve severely. That lost time was much more valuable to a team with high turnover like the Caps than it is to other teams in the league.
The 2-8-1 start has obviously gotten into the heads of the team as well as their 6-3 thumping by the Penguins on Super Bowl Sunday. They came out tonight looking downright confused and fumbling the puck like a pee-wee team. Not the kind of start you need when playing against not only a rival but a team with a 7-3 record that is good enough for second place in the Eastern Conference.
The Caps were going to need some luck to get off to a good start in this one and midway through the first period that’s exactly what they got. 23 year old rookie Tomas Kundratek took a one timer off a feed from Ovechkin and put it right on net. Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury had a hard enough time seeing through the screen when Brooks Orpik’s stick hit him in the face hard enough to knock his mask off and send it, and him, tumbling to the ice. Unfortunately for him as he was flailing in the crease, new second-line center Mark Ribeiro grabbed the loose puck and buried it in the padding at the back of the net.
The Caps’ luck would fall a little short early in the second period. For the second time, Karl Alzner would head to the box for a penalty that upon review was very questionable. It seemed as though he was being tackled to the ice, yet he got the call for interference. Evgeni Malkin would capitalize very early in the power play to tie the game at 1-1.
A few minutes later Pascal Dupuis would score on a nice feed from Sidney Crosby and that would be the end of the night for Michal Neuvirth. He was replaced by Braden Holtby with just over six minutes to go in the period. Holtby’s night didn’t start much better. He gave up two goals in quick succession, the first to James Neal on a power play and then at even strength a minute later to Brooks Orpik right off the faceoff. Sidney Crosby, with an assist from Washington’s John Carlson (worst plus-minus in the league), would score with 22 seconds left in the second period and the Caps’ meltdown was in full effect.
Alex Ovechkin would get one back midway through the third but it would be the classic tale of too little too late. The team would eventually go on to lose by a final score of 5 - 2. The one good take away from the third period was that the Caps seemed to get a little bit of heart back into their game and had some “no pressure” time to work on getting the system down a little better.
It’s going to be an interesting time for the team over the next few weeks to see how they handle adversity the likes of which haven’t been seen during the “Ovechkin Era" in Washington. I would love to be a fly on the wall of General Manager George McPhee’s office in Arlington. It will be interesting to see what, if any, moves are made both on the bench and behind it over the coming days and weeks.