Caps Fall in Dale Hunter’s Coaching Debut

WASHINGTON – In the Capitals first game in the post-Boudreau era, the team’s overall defensive effort improved. However, the inability to generate quality scoring chances severely hurt the Caps, who fell 2-1 against the red hot St. Louis Blues Tuesday evening.

The Capitals took an early lead off a goal by Nicklas Backstrom.  A streaking Alexander Ovechkin cut through the neutral zone, slid along the right wing boards, and found a wide-open Backstrom in the slot.

Tomas Vokoun started in net for the Capitals, and though he would be decent in net, he would not be enough.  Shortly after the Capitals scored a go-ahead goal in the first period, the Blues responded with a goal of their own. David Backes found Alex Steen for a one-timer in the slot. Steen’s shot rang off the crossbar, but T.J. Oshie poked the rebound past Vokoun to tie the game.

The clubs were tied after one period, though the Blues dominated the flow of play in the first.

In the second period, the Chris Stewart-Patrik Berglund-Matt D’Agostini line finally generated some offense. Stewart passed to D’Agostini as he streaked through the neutral zone. D’Agostini fired a rocket shot at Vokoun who made the initial stop. Berglund poked the puck behind the net while catching Vokoun out of position, allowing D’Agostini to score on an empty net wrap around.

The third period was scoreless. Both teams had a few decent looks at the net, including a point blank shot by Backstrom on Jaroslav Halak in the final minute of the third, but the 2-1 score held up, granting the Blues the win.

Defenseman Cade Fairchild played his first ever NHL game, filling in for Alex Pietrangelo.  Pietrangelo, the Blues top-pairing right handed defenseman, has the flu.

The Blues have now won four in a row, despite injuries to key players. David Perron has now missed 95 games, but St. Louis Post Dispatch Blues beat writer J.P. Rutherford speculates fans may see Perron back in the blue note as early as Saturday night against the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Blues next game is Friday night against former Blue Erik Johnson and the Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center in Denver.  The game airs at 8 p.m. CST on Fox Sports Midwest.

Blues Notable Injuries:

Vladimir Sobotka: Has now missed two games with an upper body injury. Sobotka took a puck to the face that fractured a facial bone. However, he is expected to reenter the lineup Friday night against the Avalanche.

Carlo Colaiacovo: Colaiacovo is on the IR with a hamstring injury.  He is expected to return soon, which will create a log-jam of defenseman.

B.J. Crombeen: Though Crombeen has resumed skating after fracturing his shoulder in the preseason, he is still not close to returning to the lineup. The Blues could use his penalty killing ability as their PK has been abysmal this season.

Kent Huskins: Underwent successful ankle surgery several weeks ago.  Huskins is still expected to miss three to four more weeks rehabbing his broken ankle.

Andy McDonald: McDonald only played three games this season before suffering a severe concussion.  There is no timetable for McDonald’s return—with the number and severity of his concussions, he might not.  McDonald’s most recent concussion is number seven, putting him at critical risk of damage.

Evgeny Grachev: Though Grachev had been scratched for several games prior to Tuesday night’s game in Washington, he sustained an injury Monday in practice. After taking a puck to the eye, Grachev experienced some severe swelling and ended up seeing a doctor in Washington. Grachev is expected to miss some time recovering.

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