The Capitals had flashes of greatness on Thursday night, slicing through the Devils lines like the team that won the Presidents Trophy in 2010, but a maddening display of undisciplined behavior in the third period undermined what should’ve been a Caps triumph. New Jersey 3, Capitals 2 was the final as the Caps dropped to 5-11-1, their 11 points is worst in the league.
There were some highlights, though: Braden Holtby made 35 saves — a number that usually means a win for the young net-minder — but tonight it wasn’t enough, as penalties mounted late. Twice in the third period the Caps were missing two men, part of a disastrous collapse marred by mistake after mistake. The Caps racked up 12 penalty minutes in the third on six minor penalties, giving the Devils the edge they needed to even the game, and then move ahead, on tallies from Loktionov and Kovalchuk.
One last thought: tonight was the first time since last May that we saw Alex Ovechkin display any of his unique talents. There were three breakaways tonight that carried that same fire that the talented forward can demonstrate. When he chooses to, Ovechkin can dazzle your senses, and do things that mortal forwards cannot, but so often this season that Ovechkin is absent from the ice. Tonight he was present and accounted for, if he was shut out by the Devils’ Brodeur. We also saw a careless tripping penalty (which really looked like a roughing penalty from where I was sitting. I’m fairly sure it’s hard to trip someone with an elbow to their face) from the Russian, though, which made him look petty amid the pretty.
The Capitals are running out of time. Now at the one-third mark of the shortened season, the Caps are six points behind the division lead and the last playoff slot. They will rematch with the Devils on Saturday at the Phone Booth. Tickets, as you might imagine, are plentiful on the open markets.