The Washington Capitals took their losing streak to seven after falling 2-1 in overtime against the Anaheim Ducks on Wednesday night at the Verizon Center. The stretch is the worst since Bruce Boudreau took over three years ago.
The Caps did look much improved tonight. Their defense was solid and they outshot the Ducks 17-7 in the first period, but they continued to struggle in finding ways to score and faced some very unlucky missed opportunities.
“They were very focused,” Boudreau said. “I thought we played very good. Sometimes you play very good and you lose. We got a point for the psyche, which is very big.”
The Caps gained a point for the first time since December 2, when they fell to Toronto in a shootout after blowing a two-goal lead in the third, but they still have yet to win since December 1, which is the team’s longest losing streak in three years.
The Caps showed a sign of hope in the first period. They came out strong — firing shots and playing solid defense. They finally connected 14 minutes into the first period when Brooks Laich was in perfect position to score a backhand in front of the net to put the Caps up 1-0, but couldn’t maintain the lead.
Twelve minutes into the second, Mike Knuble was called for a tripping penalty setting up the Ducks power play. Anaheim capitalized just 39 seconds into the man-advantage, when winger Joffrey Lupul scored on a wrist shot to tie things up 1-1.
The caps eventually lost in overtime when Anaheim center Ryan Getzlaf fought off defensemen John Carlson along the boards to send the puck soaring past Semyon Varlamov 4:03 into overtime to give the Ducks the win.
The Caps, who were without Alexander Semin tonight due to an injury, had several opportunities, but just couldn’t get the puck in the net.
“Alex [Ovechkin] had a breakaway, [that] hit the cross bar,” Knuble said. “Nick [Nicklas Backstrom] hit both posts on a three-on-one. He did everything 99% right he just hit both posts and hit the goalie in the rear. Nine times out of ten that’ll go in. We did a lot of good things. It’s going to take some small steps here to move forward.”
The Caps have started to adjust their play during the losing streak – from an offensive scoring threat, to a more defensive minded team; and that showed tonight. The Ducks were not given very many scoring opportunities.
“I thought we did everything we could,” Boudreau said. “Ovi hits the crossbar…you talk about guys being snake bit. In the first period, we outshot them. I don’t know if they had six or seven good scoring chances the whole game.”
Boudreau made adjustments to the lines, including pairing Laich, Matt Bradley, and David Steckel up against Anaheim’s talented starting line of Getzlaf, Corey Perry, and Bobby Ryan, who Boudreau said “might be the best line in the NHL,” but the changes weren’t quite enough.
The frustrations persist as the talented team continues to struggle to win games, but there were signs of things starting to look up tonight. Boudreau emphasized the adjustment the team is going through. They’ve had to make some major changes to their game plan that they hope will only make them stronger once they get out of this rough patch.
“I see us winning a lot of hockey games in the future,” said Boudreau. “Right now it’s frustrating. It makes you mentally stronger whether you like it or not”
Washington showed signs of their old selves Wednesday night. They have two days off now before they head to Boston. They will need to continue to play a solid defensive game if they want to get out of this skid.
For now, a point is a point, and it puts the Caps over the 40 point mark, which could possibly show signs that a win is in their future.
“I never want to be happy with one point when you can get two,” Boudreau said. “But it was a great effort from our team I think through all the stuff that’s been going on.”