If one period of one game can be a microcosm of an entire season, the Washington Capitals experienced it in the second period on Thursday night while visiting the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Caps went into the frame up 1-0 and headed back to the dressing room down 5-2.
Alex Ovechkin scored on the power play in the third period to cut into the lead a bit, but the Capitals lost by three to the Penguins for the second time in less than a week, this time by a 5-2 score. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin both chipped in with a goal and two assists for Pittsburgh.
The penalty killing unit was the chief culprit on this particular night, as the Pens scored all three times they had a man advantage in the second period. Malkin struck first, firing a laser over the left shoulder of Michal Neuvirth to tie the game 1-1 at the 6:59 mark. Pascal Dupuis put his team ahead at even strength about six minutes later, prompting Washington coach Adam Oates to lift Neuvirth in favor of Braden Holtby.
But it was Holtby who was between the pipes for the back-breakers: goals by James Neal and Matt Cooke that came just 11 seconds apart. Crosby added his own power play tally on a nifty play to bat a puck out of mid-air to finish off the Penguins’ second period blitz.
The Capitals out-shot the Penguins 11-5 in the final period, but the damage was already done. Ovechkin’s goal was small consolation, and the Washington captain has now gone the first 11 games of the 2013 season without scoring at even strength.
Mike Ribeiro continued his excellent start with a goal and an assist. Neuvirth stopped just nine of the 11 shots he faced before getting yanked, while Holtby made 14 saves on 17 shots in relief.
The Caps have now lost three straight games and five of their last six. Their 2-7-1 record would put them on a 37-point pace in a full 82-game season.
And while there are more wounds to be licked, at least the Capitals can do it briefly at home. Washington hosts the Florida Panthers on Saturday before heading out for a three-game road trip next week.
The game was over when…
The Capitals skated onto the ice for the second period. What had been a fairly uneventful first period with the exception of Ribeiro’s goal quickly turned into another nightmare. The Penguins had all the energy, made all the plays, and got all the bounces while unleashing their five-goal barrage.
The unsung Caps hero was…
Not much to pick from here, so we’ll give the nod to Tomas Kundratek. The blueliner picked up the second point of his career, throwing in a shot from the point that eventually led to Fleury’s mask coming off and Ribeiro scoring on the rebound. Kundratek also had one hit and was even on the game.