The Washington Capitals lost again on Saturday night, falling inside Pepsi Center to the Colorado Avalanche by a final of 2-1. The Caps gave up the first goal of the game on an absolutely terrible play by Michal Neuvirth, who somehow managed to lose track of the puck during its 20 MPH journey into the back of his net. Alexander Semin scored the lone DC goal, equalizing in the second period, but Washington gave it right back 54 seconds later in a nice little microcosm of their season. The Caps are now out of the Eastern Conference playoff picture. Again.
The game got off to a rather static start, with neither team gaining much offensive momentum out of the gate. But it was Colorado who struck first when Cody McLeod floated a 60 foot wrister towards the net that Neuvirth completely whiffed on, allowing it to nestle into the top of the net for a 1-0 lead. As the period continued, the early stagnant offensive play returned, with both teams waiting back and not attempting to generate constant pressure on the opposing net. Colorado was given their first power play with 7 minutes left and were finally able to get some good chances, but the penalty killers held firm. The Avalanche kept coming after their power play, but paid for their aggression with a penalty two and a half minutes left in the frame, granting the Caps their first power play. Predictably, however, DC's man advantage was very poor, and the period closed with the home side ahead 1-0.
The Capitals were much more open to start the second period, getting good shots on Jean-Sebastien Giguere but also failing to capitalize on three nice chances in front of the net. Alex Ovechkin also got free on a great inside move in front, but Giguere was able to beat him with the blocker. Washington's pressure paid off when they were given a power play at the midway mark of the period, but again the visitors' man advantage was very bad as they failed to set up any zone time or get any quality chances. But DC was finally able to equalize when Alexander Semin became Alexander Semin again for a fleeting moment, scoring on an insane wrist shot from the half wall. And in classic 2011-12 Capitals fashion, they gave it right back as Erik Johnson scored on a long shot. It got worse for the Caps, as Jeff Halpern was called for a penalty soon after the go ahead goal, but Washington was thankfully able to kill it off. Then the Caps were given a late second period man advantage, but the Avalanche killed off the first 90 seconds before the period expired with little effort.
On the power play for the opening 26 seconds of the third period, the Caps were not able to score. As the period progressed, the Capitals did not really step on the gas early, instead sitting back and trying not to make a mistake, which resulted in only one shot through the first ten minutes. Past the ten minute mark of the period, however, the Caps began to realize that they needed to pressure Giguere in order to try and equalize. The Avalanche would have none of it, however, scaling the Caps' pressure down with a ferocious forecheck and a suffocating trap. Despite a desperate last-minute attempt, DC wasn't able to draw even and lost to one of the worst teams in the league.
An absolutely abysmal performance in this game on the power play. You have to score to shoot not only with the man advantage, but at even strength. With an extra man, the Caps refused to shoot. They held on to the puck too long, allowed their passing lanes to be clogged up by defenders, and completely failed to take advantage of Colorado's statistically middling penalty kill unit. All of this with supposedly two of the top ten offensive players in the world. Sigh.
Less than five shots in the third period. While behind by a goal. Against one of the worst teams in the NHL and the worst team in the Northwest Division. That's all you need to know.
It's way past panic mode at this point. The Caps just got hosed by J-S Giguere, who hasn't been good since 2007, and the youngest team in the NHL. Did I mention the Avalanche a terrible, too? Time for a huge shake up. Dale Hunter was the wrong man for this job. The Caps are off Sunday and will get back to "work" on Monday.