The Washington Capitals looked to regain their composure Tuesday night when they clashed with the Calgary Flames for the second time in two weeks, this time on home ice. Despite outplaying the opposition, they gained just a point, extending their losing streak to five.
While the Caps would have liked to get the full two points for tonight’s effort, their play tonight was a noted improvement from recent games.
“I thought we played well tonight,” said Capitals Alex Ovechkin. “A very good group effort… no question about the effort. Everybody played hard, but sometimes luck is not on your side…We just have to stick with it and keep fighting and keep playing.”
Capitals coach Barry Trotz agreed with his captain, saying that his team “played a really strong game.”
Calgary opened the scoring when Lane Bouma put a rebound through Washington defenseman Mike Green’s legs past the right side of netminder Braden Holtby after a good offensive zone shift for the Flames.
Washington answered in historic fashion when Ovechkin’s wrist shot was deflected by forward Nicklas Backstrom, tying the game and giving Ovechkin his 826th career point. With the assist, Ovechkin surpassed Caps great Peter Bondra for the franchise points record (825) with Bondra in the building. Ovechkin reached the milestone in his 691st career game, 270 outings fewer than Bondra.
After ending the first period at knotted at one, Calgary regained the lead when Mark Giordano scored through traffic, putting a backhand shot behind Holtby.
Less than a minute later, Marcus Johansson crashed the net looking to get his team back in the game. His shot went wide, hit off the dasher board, and deflected off the left pad of Calgary goaltender Jonas Hiller to tie the game again at two. The goal marks his third consecutive game with a point.
The first power play of the game came on a roughing call for Curtis Glencross, whose scuffle with Ovechkin earned the minor.
A little over a minute into the penalty, Calgary was whistled for delay of game, sending former Capital Dennis Wideman to the box. Unfortunately for the home crowd, the Caps were unable to capitalize on their 5-on-3 power play.
Joel Ward got the go-ahead goal in the third on a pass from Backstrom. Hiller stopped the initial shot but pushed the in puck with his left pad as he went down to the butterfly. The goal was Ward’s sixth of the season, who has scored goals in two straight contests.
After both teams failed to score on power plays in the second, Washington ended the period with a lead, although the Caps have been hard pressed to hold onto their leads lately.
The Caps did in fact hold that lead for most of the third period; playing well and grasping their one-goal edge tightly. Just when it looked like they would put together their first solid 60-minute performance in four games, an errant bounce put life back into the Flames.
Markus Granlund was credited for the goal, which bounced off of Troy Brouwer’s skate, jumping over Holtby to tie the game.
“We had guys in the right position, and it just takes a bad bounce,” said Caps defenseman Brooks Orpik on the game-tying goal. “There is not much else we can do about it.”
With just over five minutes left in the game, Washington tried desperately to regain the lead they had earned.
No effort was more heartbreaking than the last-second potential game-winner when Backstrom sent a pass right to the tape of Tom Wilson, who sat at the goalmouth. Ready to put the puck in the net, Wilson failed to elevate his shot over the right pad of Hiller, hearing the buzzer expire as overtime loomed before him.
“Obviously, I’d like to have that one back,” said Wilson of the near gamer-winner. “I was just trying to get it on net. I was aware that the time was coming down…that just has to go under the bar.”
Calgary coach Bob Hartley understandably impressed with the play, calling Hiller’s effort “the save of the year.”
“We had a break down and we missed an assignment and they ended up two on one and I knew there was still plenty of time,” he said. “Two-points go to Hills [Jonas Hiller] all the way.”
The Capitals kept the pressure on in overtime, but to no avail. Despite having more shots and scoring chances than their opponent, the Caps extended their losing streak to five when Flames rookie Sean Monahan ended the game with his fourth goal of the season.
A breakdown in the Caps offensive zone caused a breakout for Calgary. Beautiful passing from Mark Giordano and Josh Jooris lead to the goal, dashing the Caps hopes in the extra frame.
“The only thing I’m disappointed about is the outcome,” said Trotz postgame. “I’m not disappointed in the effort, I’m not disappointed in how we stuck together, our discipline, our demeanor…everybody was all in tonight.”
Orpik echoed Trotz’s sentiments.
“I don’t think anyone is questioning the effort tonight. It is just kind of the way things are going right now,” he said. “You just have to come back tomorrow, keep putting work in. Hopefully the results will turn around for us.”