Penalties have been a problem for the Washington Capitals for most of the 2013 season. So has an inability to hold onto third period leads, and those two weaknesses collided in an ugly way Thursday night against the visiting New Jersey Devils.
Ilya Kovalchuk scored a 5-on-3 power play goal with 9:20 left in regulation, completing New Jersey’s 3-2 comeback victory at Verizon Center. The Devils were down 2-1 after 40 minutes, but five minor penalties called against the Capitals—including two that gave the visitors lengthy two-man advantages—eventually proved too much to overcome.
Washington took a pair of one-goal leads in the second period. The first came at the 9:28 mark, when Mathieu Perreault scored his second of the year on the power play. Patrik Elias scored shorthanded to even the score, but the Capitals regained the lead on the same man advantage when Mike Ribeiro tallied his sixth goal of the season.
The Devils committed four penalties to the Capitals’ one through 40 minutes, but that imbalance turned around in a hurry in the final frame. Matt Hendricks was called for holding at the 2:55 mark, and he was joined in the box by Tomas Kundratek after a lengthy discussion by the officials resulted in a delay of game call.
Washington’s penalty killers turned in a stellar effort to kill off those penalties and a subsequent call on Alex Ovechkin. But the Devils tied it up at even strength on Andrei Loktionov‘s rebound of an Adam Larsson shot, and the Capitals found themselves down two men again shortly thereafter. Kovalchuk had been stymied by Braden Holtby up to that point, but he dropped almost to one knee while finding the twine from the high slot with 8:20 to play.
The Capitals managed to get some decent looks on Martin Brodeur once Holtby was pulled late in the game, including a nice feed from Ovechkin to Ribeiro. They also appealed for a delay of game call on the Devils with under a minute to play, but it was not to be.
New Jersey outshot Washington 37-19 for the game, aided by a slow start for the Capitals and a 15-3 edge in the penalty-filled third period. The Devils ended up just 1-for-6 on the power play to the Caps’ 2-for-4, but that one conversion came when it mattered most.
The loss drops the Capitals to 5-10-1 on the season and guarantees they will remain in last place in the East until at least Saturday. If there’s a silver lining, it’s probably the fact that they will have a chance for some immediate payback, as the Devils return to Verizon Center for the final time this weekend.
The game was over when…
The Capitals gave the Devils, and Kovalchuk in particular, too many opportunities. Holtby and the three-man crew were brilliant the first time they faced a 5-on-3 situation, barely giving up any room to shoot. But you just felt that the second time would be trouble, and it was.
The unsung Capitals hero was…
Holtby is a worthy candidate, as he played well for the second game in a row without getting a result. But I’ll go with Troy Brouwer here, both for dishing out two assists and for showing how much the losing is bothering him, smashing his stick in frustration at the end of the game. Plus he was calm during post-game interviews (as were all the players), refusing to snipe at the officials for the seeming delay of game that wasn’t called in the closing moments.