Habs Top Caps in Shootout

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Mathieu Perreault notched a goal and an assist.
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For the second straight game, the Washington Capitals failed to hold a lead and lost in a shootout, this time to the Montreal Canadiens, 3-2, last night at Verizon Center. Canadiens’ captain Brian Gionta scored two second-period goals as well as the lone shootout goal to win it for the Habs. The Caps have lost the last eight times when the game goes to overtime or a shootout.

On a night when Washington saluted former Capitals’ feisty scoring star Dino Ciccarelli, the Caps looked like they wanted to start where Dino left off 19 years ago. Washington came out with blazing hot sticks, shooting the puck and crashing the net. The defense was jumping into the action, and the Caps looked like the explosive offensive team of last season. Unfortunately, the Montreal Canadiens looked like the team that eliminated the Caps from the playoffs last year, too. The combination of suffocating defense and opportunistic offense paid off again for the Canadiens.

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Dino Ciccarelli was honored before the game for his recent induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
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But the first 10 minutes was all Washington in their white throw-back jerseys, and Dino could be proud of the team he played on from 1988 to 1992. Less than three minutes into the game, Mathieu Perreault broke up a routine clearing pass at center ice during a line change, skated down the left side unhindered, and fired a hard wristshot between the pads of Montreal goalie Carey Price for an unassisted goal.

Five minutes later, the team did something that happened frequently last year but has been rare this year: they scored a power play goal. Again it was Perreault creating the energy as all the forwards were cycling, moving the puck and establishing position in front of the net. Mike Green picked up a Perreault rebound, threaded his way into the slot, deked the defenseman, then slipped a pass to Mike Knuble all alone on the left post for the easy put away and a 2-0 lead.

But then the fire went out of the Caps. The Canadiens repeatedly outhustled the Caps to loose pucks. After taking 8 of the first 10 shots of the game, the Caps were unable to muster much offense by the second period. Gionta scorched the Caps for two goals, taking advantage when a Caps blue-liner jumped forward into the offense and out of position. Gionta scored first on a two-on-one slapper, and on then on a clear breakaway to tie the game 2-2 late in the period. “I think we kind of sat back on our two goal lead,” said Perreault. “We can’t afford to do that. We need to keep going and keep pushing, and it came up to bite us in the ass.”

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Halpern and Backstrom Wait for Faceoff
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Former Capitals captain and local fan favorite Jeff Halpern was back in town. He is playing for his fourth team since leaving the Caps five years ago. Halpern grew up in Potomac, MD, and started his NHL career with the Caps. He was the first Capital to have grown up in the DC area.

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Ovechkin and Subban Fall to Ice
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The Ovechkin-Backstrom-Knuble line was the only combination that was able to generate consistent time in the offensive zone after the first period. Rookie All-Star P.K. Subban of the Canadiens drew the assignment of guarding Alex Ovechkin, and the two clashed repeatedly, including an epic center ice hit by Ovie. Subban and Ovechkin were teammates at the All-Star game just three days ago, but you wouldn’t know from the way they went at each other. “It’s OK,” said Ovechkin after the game. “It’s just in the moment.”

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Varlamov Keeps the Puck In Front of Him
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Goalie Semyon Varlamov made some sensational saves as the Canadiens unleashed 38 shots on goal, keeping the Caps in the game as they struggled to find offensive opportunities. He controlled the puck and yielded few second chances. “Varly was really good when he had to be tonight,” said coach Bruce Boudreau. “He did what he had to do to help us win the game.”

The Canadiens continued to find open ice and clear passing lanes while the Capitals failed to execute basic plays and seemed a step behind the speedy Canadiens. On the bright side, the Caps successfully killed six penalties, including two in the third period to send the game to overtime and the shootout. Nicklas Backstrom hit the post on the first shot of the shootout. Gionta scored on the next shot. Then Price stopped both Matt Hendricks and Alex Ovechkin to seal the win. Sorry Dino.

The Caps will play at home three times next week – facing the Pittsburgh Penguins (Feb. 6, 12:30pm), San Jose Sharks (Feb. 8, 7pm) and LA Kings (Feb. 12, 12:30pm) – before heading out of town for a five-game road trip in late February.

Will Packard

Will moved to DC 33 years ago to go to college and never left. By day he is the director of finance at an interactive marketing agency near Dupont Circle. When not hanging out at Kettler Iceplex or Verizon Center, he can often be found out rowing on the Potomac River or searching for the perfect burrito.

2 thoughts on “Habs Top Caps in Shootout

  1. Definitely a tough loss for the Caps last night. When I saw the way they came out and played in the first, I was really impressed and thought that they might just have gotten the rest they needed to play solid hockey all night long, and went to bed with a 2-0 lead. I wake up this morning to find that they lost another shootout. Rough!

    Also, the hit on Subban last night made the Sports Bog this morning and is a thing of beauty.

  2. Subban is going to be a great player in the NHL, but he was no match for Ovie last night. And is “P.K.” a great name for a hockey player or what?