Just got back to Baltimore after the flight back from Ottawa and the drive back from Dulles. I’m about to grab a couple hours sleep before I have to head back to K-Plex for Friday’s practice, but before I do here are a few bleary-eyed observations/notes from Thursday’s game against the Senators.
For the second straight game, the Capitals were unable to make a two-goal lead stand up. Tom Poti’s power play tally in the second period gave the Caps a 3-1 advantage, but the lead was wiped out when Ottawa scored twice in less than two minutes midway through the second period. The Sens scored four unanswered goals before Alex Ovechkin netted his first of the preseason on a good hustle play by Tomas Fleischmann late in the third period.
The Caps failed to convert on a two-man advantage of 37 seconds in duration late in the second period. Doing so would have given them a lead going into the final 20 minutes.
The game turned very early in the third. Washington center Michael Nylander was whistled for two hooking minors on consecutive shifts, and both penalties came in the offensive zone. The Caps killed the first one, although Ottawa spent virtually the entire two minutes in Washington’s zone, moving the puck around and peppering Caps goaltender Olie Kolzig with shots.
Just 28 seconds after exiting the penalty box, Nylander went off for a second hooking infraction. That put the Caps in a position of having to kill off a second straight minor, but it would get worse. Matt Pettinger got called for tripping just 23 seconds after Nylander’s second penalty, giving the Sens a two-man advantage for 1:37. Dany Heatley made Washington pay just 16 seconds later, pinballing one past Olie Kolzig to give the Sens a 4-3 lead. The Caps would kill off Pettinger’s penalty, but as the winger raced from the box to rejoin the play, Ottawa center Chris Kelly chipped a Nick Foligno feed up under the crossbar behind Kolzig for what would prove to be the game-winning goal.
Washington would have power play opportunities of its own late in the third, three of them to be exact. But for some reason the Caps were more effective at even strength in the final frame than they were with the extra man. Washington spent 4:46 of the third period on the power play, but failed to launch a single shot on goal with the extra man. Seven of the Caps’ eight third period shots on goal came at even strength; the other came while the visitors were shorthanded.
Fleischmann (goal, assist), Poti (goal, assist) and Mike Green (two assists) each had a two-point game.
Ovechkin attempted nine shots on goal. Two missed the net, six were blocked en route and the other found its mark. One shot on goal, one goal. Ovechkin looked like he was skating fine, and his shot certainly had its usual velocity. His radar was off a bit, and judging by the number of shots he had blocked, perhaps his release is just a hair slow at this juncture.
Poti led Washington defensemen with 23:52 in ice time. Nylander led Caps forwards with 20:42 and Nicklas Backstrom was second with 19:53. Backstrom skated 3:01 more than Ovechkin on the evening. The difference can likely be attributed to Backstrom seeing some shorthanded ice time.
The Shaone Morrisonn-Milan Jurcina defensive pairing that was so effective for Washington in the second half of the 2006-07 season has not been seen together much in camp thus far, as both defensemen have been paired with other partners. The duo was reunited in Ottawa on Thursday, with good results. Both Morrisonn and Jurcina were plus-1 on the night, both skated over 20 minutes and both laid three bodychecks. Jurcina had three shots on goal.
Jakub Klepis led the Caps with five shots on goal and tied for the team lead with three hits. He also had a pass carom off him and into the neutral zone in a key third period power play situation. Fleischmann and Backstrom both helped their chances of making the opening night roster (and frankly, I think it was and is sheer lunacy to give even a passing thought that he could begin the season in Hershey), while the same cannot be said for Klepis. Five more preseason games are on the slate, so chances at redemption could be in the offing.
Green also helped his chances with his performance in Ottawa on Thursday. He now has a goal and three points in two preseason tilts.
Kolzig will tell you he should have been able to glove down the puck that Jason Spezza backhanded in to make it 3-2.
Spezza is one hell of a playmaker, by the way. But you knew that.
Kelly gets better every time I see him play. As does Antoine Vermette.
Anton Volchenkov was in midseason form with five blocked shots. He led the NHL with 273 last season, 45 more than his next closest competitor.
The top four Ottawa defensemen skated between 22:49 and 24:09. Nice to have four defensemen you can trust to absorb those kind of minutes.
Foligno looks like he’s going to be a player. He doesn’t turn 20 until Halloween, but he’s making a strong bid for a berth. Foligno was Ottawa’s top choice (28th overall) in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft. He’s the son of former Bears coach Mike Foligno.
I’ve always liked Daniel Alfredsson as a player, but he can retire, go back to Sweden or move along to the Western Conference anytime he wants to. He’s the most notorious Caps killer this side of Mark Recchi.
Brian Elliott. Hmm. I’d have to see some more of him, but he was sharp on Thursday.
Steve Kolbe sagely noted that Brian Lee looks like the kid who bags your groceries at the Giant. Nate Ewell sagely noted that Brian Lee was the fourth best defenseman on the North Dakota Fighting Sioux roster last season. Paper or plastic?