After a six-day layoff, the Washington Capitals needed something good to get their groove back. Two disappointing losses before the break didn’t do much to help the team’s collective psyche or place in the standings, but Tuesday’s game with the Montreal Canadiens looked like it would be just what the doctor ordered. Dino Ciccarelli was in attendance as the guest of honor and the Caps were wearing their Winter Classic uniforms. Nothing could possi-bly go wrong. And for the first period, it looked that way, as the Capitals jumped out to a 2-0 lead. But as Chester Bennington said, in the end, it doesn’t even matter. Montreal came back and won the game by a 3-2 score in a shootout. It doesn’t look like the Caps are planning to break the habit of blowing games late (It’s a Linkin Park kind of day).
- Considering that the Caps were in dead last in the NHL when it came to scoring first period goals entering the game, Tuesday’s first period was one of the best first 20 minutes of the season. Washington was outshot 11-9, but played an effective offensive zone game that led to both of their goals. Mathieu Perreault scored what can be considered a soft goal on Carey Price and Mike Knuble banged home a layup from Mike Green on the power play. Despite the fact that they lost, first periods like that usually go rewarded. If the Caps can find a way to replicate that in the future, they will be in good shape.
- Speaking of Knuble, those Winter Classic uniforms must be a good look charm of some kind. Two of his last four goals have come while wearing those jerseys. Retro uniforms bring out retro “n00bs;” stepping up in the crease and banging in easy shots and rebounds is what he does best and with the Caps’ scoring problems, he needs to do that more. Unfortunately, the Caps won’t be wearing those uniforms again this season, so Knuble is on his own.
- The penalty kill went perfect again at 6-for-6, but two things weren’t necessarily good about them. First, the Capitals earned two of those penalties while on the power play. Second, the Capitals committed six penalties.
- As good as the first period was, the second period was just as bad. Montreal had their way with porous Washington defense and outshot them 15-6. Brian Gionta had his way with the defense twice and beat Semyon Varlamov three times (the third being the shootout winner). Craig Laughlin noticed how flat the Caps looked compared to their hot start. This is nothing new for Washington; for years now, they have gone up by several goals before deciding to coast, which leads to blown leads and losses. This was the fourth time this season that the Capitals have blown a two-goal or more lead. It’s time to dust off the “killer instinct” pleas again.
- Let’s be honest, the Caps played well for about the first 10 minutes and then played not to lose for the next 55. They rarely had chances and seemed content to watch Montreal outwork them, coming back from what should have been an insurmountable two goal deficit given the way Varlamov played.
- Varly was quite gnarly once again tonight. He’s allowed 17 goals in his last 10 games and is sporting a rocking 1.74 GAA with a .946 save percentage in those games. He posted 36 saves against the Habs and also had several fantastic stops on the PK.
- We can’t mention PK without talking about Subban. He got to know Alex Ovechkin’s hip quite well Tuesday night.
The Capitals have their work cut out for them this weekend. Friday, they head to Tampa Bay for a huge game with the Lightning, who they haven’t scored on since November 26. On Sunday, they welcome the Penguins. If the Capitals want to stay alive, they have to get it together and fast. Otherwise, they’ll end up crawling to the finish line and waiting for the end. Nu metal!