|Aw, shucks. No matter. Now the real season starts.|
Florida got off to a good start as they earned the game's first couple of scoring chances inside the first three minutes, but they were refuted by the Washington defense. Just 4:04 in, though, the Caps were awarded a power play when David Booth was sent off for high-sticking. Washington was not able to convert on their power play, however, and the Panthers again began to try and build up pressure on the DC cage. Their pressure got them a power play, as Matt Hendricks was given the gate for hooking at 10:26. The Capital penalty kill was once again magnificent, giving the Panthers no breathing room, and the penalty expired without incident and without any shots on goal. As the period continued, the Capitals kept sitting back for the most part, and the Panthers failed to take the initiative and press the Washington defense even more, although Michael Neuvirth did make two nice saves to keep the game tied. Over the last five or so minutes of the frame, both teams failed to get anything going, and the period ended knotted at 0.
In the second period, the Panthers again got the early chances against a blatantly lazy Capitals team, getting good opportunities to score inside the first four minutes. At 4:24, Nicklas Backstrom took another penalty, this time a slashing call, sending the Panthers to a second power play. Once again, however, the DC penalty kill was excellent, and the best scoring chance actually came off the stick of Marcus Johansson, who generated an opportunity with a nice steal but was unable to convert. The Caps got some chances after the power play was over, particularly off the stick of Alex Ovechkin, but Vokoun was there to eliminate the chances. Past the halfway point of the period, Florida got a great chance off a two-on-one break, but the play was broken up nicely by John Carlson. The Panthers threatened again four minutes later when Michal Neuvirth was unable to cover up a rebound in front, but the referee blew the play dead before the puck could be poked home. Both teams continued to play tentatively, afraid to make a mistake, and it showed, as the game became very slow as the period wound down. There was no scoring during the last three minutes, and the second period ended still tied at 0.
The third stanza got off to a very slow start, with both teams going through the motions and not making much concerted effort to score. About three minutes in, the Caps got the first real chance of the period as the top line got a nice forecheck going down low, but Vokoun was again there to thwart the chance. The game then moved into a very slow stretch, with almost nothing going on as the Panthers began to give up and the Caps began to really be careful with all their personnel. Inside ten minutes remaining, the Capitals got a nice chance from Marcus Johansson and Alexander Semin in close, but Vokoun again was there to deny a goal. With just over six minutes left, the Panthers finally broke thorough, as a poor decision in front of the net and soft d-zone coverage led to a Bill Thomas goal and a 1-0 Florida lead. Washington tried to get something going after the goal, and Alex Ovechkin had a nice chance, but the Caps could not break through. Late in the game, Washington put five forwards out in an attempt to tie, and then Bruce Boudreau pulled Michal Neuvirth with a minute left. It ddn't matter, though, and the Caps could not score, dropping their regular season finale.
Goodness me, this was boring. I actually don't think I have ever been this bored with a Caps game. It was clear to everyone in the building and everyone watching that the Caps didn't care, and they played like it. No one got hurt, no one did anything stupid, and that was that. Fine with me.
Michal Neuvirth looked solid in goal, making some nice saves amid the drawl of a game that was played in front of him. The goal wasn't his fault; sure, he could have stopped it, but the defense collapsed in front of him and it was batted out of midair, hardly a bad goal. It sure looks like he will get the call in Game 1 of the playoffs.
The Capitals will likely have tomorrow off and then return to practice Monday morning as they prepare for the opening round of the playoffs.