EDMONTON, ALBERTA - Nikolai Khabibulin stopped 34 of 35 and Jordan Eberle netted his second goal of the season for the eventual game-winner as the Edmonton Oilers took down the Washington Capitals 2-1 Thursday night inside Rexall Place. Karl Alzner scored the lone goal for the Capitals, who fall to 7-1 on the year with their loss. Nevertheless, Washington still leads the Southeast Division.
The Capitals absolutely dominated this game at even strength, especially early in the contest, pinning their hosts in their own zone for long stretches and peppering Khabibulin with shots. Alzner's goal came a little over five minutes into the opening frame, but then the Caps started their parade to the penalty box. Edmonton's lethal top power play with Taylor Hall, Eberle, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins made the Caps pay late in the first period as Hall scored on a backdoor play to equalize heading into the first break.
In the second period, the Caps were called for five consecutive penalties, but managed to keep the Oil off the board in the early stages of the frame. Tomas Vokoun made several exceptional saves in that time frame during those man advantages against, but eventually, playing a man down for so long was just too much, as Eberle scored his game winner on another backdoor play two minutes past the midpoint of regulation. Despite being down a goal, though, the Caps could not stop their parade to the penalty box, and only the great play of the defense and Vokoun kept the deficit one through 40 minutes.
In the third, the Capitals absolutely blitzed the Oilers, especially at the start of the period. The Bulin Wall continued to hold firm, though, including a sensational save on Dennis Wideman on an early power play, coming across the face of goal. The Capitals continued to pressure Edmonton magnificently as the period wore on, but simply could not beat the Oilers' goalie, who was the best player on the ice. A late 6-on-4 power play gave Caps fans hope for a tie, but in classic Capitals fashion, the visitors passed the puck around the perimeter incessantly instead of trying this hip new thing called shooting. Oh, well. We all knew it would happen sometime.
Only one today, because I didn't get to watch the whole game: This loss is a not a big deal. The Caps are 7-1, they're still stacked, and they were missing Mike Green. Sometimes a goalie just beats you. That's what happened Thursday night. That's not to slight the Oilers, but the Caps are a better team than them. But when you take nine penalties, legitimate or not, you're probably going to loose. Like goes on.
The Caps are practicing in Vancouver Friday night at 5 PM and will play the Canucks Saturday night at 10 PM on Hockey Night in Canada.