Bruce Boudreau’s 300th game behind the bench didn’t go quite as planned.
With a chance to tie Philadelphia for first place in the Eastern Conference, the Capitals were unable to sneak a puck past Senators goalie Craig Anderson.
Missing several key players, Alex Ovechkin, Mike Green and Jason Arnott among them, the Caps could not convert on any of their 31 shots. They played well on the power play, getting several scoring chances but couldn’t find an answer for Anderson, who provided several spectacular plays throughout the game.
The shutout marked the tenth time this season Washington has been blanked, more times than any season with the exception of the expansion season in 1974-75 and the 1998-99 campaign.
Semyon Varlamov got the surprise start tonight, as Michal Neuvirth was initially named the starter but could not play due to an illness. Varlamov had not started since February 20th after being diagnosed with a lower body injury. Initially, the plan was the for the oft-injured goaltender to get the start Saturday night against Montreal, where he made his NHL debut. Varlamov looked strong through the game, stopping 21 of 23 shots and showing some signs of rust now and again but playing sharp overall.
The first goal of the game was scored by Colin Greening on a disputed call in the second period that went to review. Initially, it appeared that Greening not only interfered with Varlamov, but kicked the puck in as well. After a lengthy review, it was ruled that there was no distinct kicking motion and the goal withstood. Erik Condra put the insurance tally up early in the third period on a soft goal from the top of the circle.
Greening’s goal was not the only disputable call of the game. Early in the first period, Caps forward Matt Hendricks caught the stick of Ottawa defenseman David Hale in the face. After initially calling a penalty, the refs decided that the incident was not only a clean play, but that the faceoff should be taken outside the zone. Hendricks, bleeding on the bench, was given the explanation that his wound must have occurred from a skate. Thus, a potential double minor penalty was wiped out.
Another curious call came midway through the third period when Caps forward Matt Bradley slammed into Senators defenseman Patrick Wiercioch. Although the hit occurred above the goal line, the refs administered a boarding call against Bradley, who was immediately involved in a fight after the incident with Ottawa player Zack Smith.
The Caps have no time to rest as they play Montreal Saturday night. The team looks to continue their strong surge, having gone 10-2 thus far in the month of March. With seven games left in the season, the team sits comfortably ahead of Tampa Bay for first place in the Southeast and remains four points ahead of Boston for the second seed in the conference.
There have been conflicting reports so far about who will get the start in net for Washington Saturday. The team does not want to play Varlamov in back to back games and it is believed that Braden Holtby, who was recently sent down to Hershey, would be called upon to make the start against Montreal.