|8, 26, and 19 try in vain to tie late in the 3rd perod. (AP)|
The Capitals got off to a great start, as the trio of Nicklas Backstrom, Alex Ovechkin, and Jason Chimera pinned the Thrashers inside their own zone for about a minute on only the second shift of the game. Despite this good forecheck and cycle pressure, however, the Capitals were not able to dent Ondrej Pavelec. The Capitals continued to carry the pace of play at the Thrashers, and Matt Hendricks sprung Marcus Johansson on a mini breakaway with a great lead pass about five minutes in, but Pavelec again was equal to the task. Atlanta finally got a rush up ice with about 11 minutes left with a 3 on 1, and Semyon Varlamov had to be excellent to deny Anthony Stewart with his glove. Soon after, Andrew Ladd sent Alex Ovechkin sprawling to the ice with a leg check, awarding the Capitals their first power play of the evening. But as has been the case too often lately, the power play sputtered and generated little zone time or offensive pressure. After the conclusion of the man advantage, both teams began to sit back and wait for the other team to come to them and not get pucks deep in on the forecheck, resulting in constant neutral zone play. Alex Ovechkin attempted to wake his team up with a great shot inside of 20 seconds remaining in the frame, but Pavelec snapped out his glove and denied the Russian to keep the Capitals off the board.
In the second, game continued it's boring and slow pace for about the first five minutes before the Capitals started to ramp up their offensive pressure. The visiting side pinned the Thrashers in their zone for extended periods again, but Pavelec was stellar all over his crease to keep the Capitals off the board. About halfway through the frame, Brooks Laich missed a layup in close and the puck was quickly pushed up ahead by Ron Hainsey. The bouncing puck went over Jeff Schultz's blade and was collected by the forechecking Fredrik Modin, who found Nik Antropov up high in the attacking zone. The entire Capitals defense then thought it would be a good idea to let him skate into the middle of the ice, and Antropov made no mistake, ripping the puck past a challenging Semyon Varlamov for a 1-0 Thrashers advantage at the 11:51 mark. The Capitals, now desperate for a goal, cranked their offensive pressure up even more, and continued to dominate the Thrash in their own zone, but simply could not get the puck through Pavelec. With about five minutes left, the Caps were given another power play. Despite tremendous puck movement and domination in their offensive zone, however, Washington could not break through again, with Pavelec making impossible save after impossible save. With their frustration at the breaking point, the Capitals allowed their defensive zone play to slack off at the end of the period, and only the excellent play of Semyon Varlamov in close kept the Thrasher advantage at 1 after 40 minutes.
In the third, the Caps once again applied strong pressure on the Thrasher back end, but once again were denied by Pavelec time and time again. Washington did catch a bit of luck when Dustin Byfuglien hit a post for the Thrashers about 8 minutes into the frame, which would have certainly knocked the Capitals clean out of the game. Right off of that miss, Alex Ovechkin had another good rush up ice, but once again was robbed by Pavelec. Soon after, Matt Bradley took a holding penalty, but the Caps were able to hold Atlanta off until Andrew Ladd took a penalty of his own, awarding the Caps an abbreviated power play. During the man advantage, I honestly have no idea how the puck stayed out of the net; the Caps continually got pucks to the net and took good shots, but the Thrasher tender found a way to keep the puck out. Brooks Laich took another penalty with about 6 and half minutes to go, but Varlamov was excellent once again to keep the Caps in striking distance. Over the last five minutes of the frame, the Capitals pushed like no other, but Pavelec again had magic left over to rob the Capitals, including a blind glove save on Mike Green from inside the circles. Despite the desperate attempts, however, the Capitals were not able to equalize, and the Thrashers snuck out of their own arena with a stolen victory.
This is getting to be absurd. If you look closely at the picture at the top of the post, I think you might be able to see a force field keeping the Capitals from scoring behind Pavelec. I honestly have no idea how the Capitals managed to not score on any of their 50 chances in close. The Caps have no finish what so ever. They can get the pucks to the net when they want to, but literally cannot put the puck in the net to save their lives, especially on the power play, where they are now 9 for 88 in their last 27 games.
Boy does this team miss Alex Semin. Not only does his presence keep opposing teams from keying in on the top unit of Ovechkin and Backstrom; he is a pure finisher and can pick corners from in close, unlike anyone else on his team right now. I sure hope he's ready to come back soon, because the Capitals are in an even bigger heap of trouble without him.
Semyon Varlamov looked good tonight. His defense was drunk on the goal he allowed and he made several excellent saves to keep the Caps within striking distance throughout the game. With Michal Neuvirth set to return after the break, he will need to keep up the good form he has shown of late to keep the job, but he looks, at least for now, as the number one goalie we all know he can be.
This is just a really frustrating loss. I can't remember being this frustrated in over a month, since the losing streak was in full swing. There are so many things wrong with the Caps' offense and power play, I cannot even begin to talk about them all. Last year, people criticized the Caps for their firewagon style and said it would cost them in the playoffs. It did, and I can only hope that the opposite will hold true this season as the Capitals cannot score, but have a GAA near 2 and a quarter for the whole season. I have a very bad taste in my mouth right now.
The Caps are off for the All-Star break for the next four days before returning to practice Monday. Their quest to score goals will not get any easier for their next game, as they will welcome Carey Price and the excellent Canadiens' team defense to Verizon Center on Tuesday. That game is scheduled for 7:30 P.M.