"One bad shift in the third period" was how Washington Capitals head coach Bruce Boudreau described his team's effort in a 3-2 shootout loss to the New Jersey Devils, who were completing a three-game road trip Monday night at a sold-out Verizon Center.
It was Washington's fourth loss in a row, though they took two points from the four losses.
"I thought we were getting it in deep, we were doing all the right things, and that one shift, they kept it in our zone for about a minute and everyone in the building and on the bench knew something bad was going to happen."
"Something bad" was David Clarkson's second goal of the season, scored with less than seven minutes left in the third period. Clarkson banged home a pass from Nicklas Bergfors after a sustained flurry of shots and pressure. The Devils (3-2-0) had several opportunities during the possession, and the Caps had several chances to clear the puck, but could not.
The game followed a disturbing trend for the Capitals (2-2-2), as fairly dominant play in the first half of the game resulted in a 2-0 lead midway through the second period. The Caps got goals from Mike Green—his first of the season on his 24th birthday—and Mike Knuble, who was moved to the first line with Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom.
Ovechkin assisted on both goals, giving him 12 points in six games.
But the reworked second line of Brendan Morrison centering Brooks Laich and Alexander Semin was on the ice for both of New Jersey's regulation goals. The first goal was as egregious as the second, as Semin was caught up ice and out of position.
The Devils then broke out on a 4-on-2 the other way, with Brian Rolston snapping a shot past Jose Theodore off a nice feed from Rob Neidermayer.
"I thought that [the Knuble line] played a solid game. I thought the other line struggled a little bit with the switch...We've got to find a switch that works for everybody," Boudreau said.
"It's not a frustration. It's more like an annoyance," Knuble said of the four-game skid. "We're doing all the things right, every game we've lost."
Theodore (27 saves) had a very strong game, especially late in the third period and in overtime, when the Caps were forced to kill a Morrison tripping call.
"Jose was on top of his game again, but we just couldn't get that win for him," captain Chris Clark said.
Special teams were an issue again, as the Caps went 0-for-5 on the power play, including 53 seconds of five-on-three. On the positive side, though, they did not allow a power play goal in five tries.
In the shootout, Backstrom drew first blood, and Zach Parise and Jamie Langenbrunner both answered for New Jersey. Semin was stopped by Martin Brodeur on the Caps second shot, and Ovechkin was denied on the final try, sending the frenzied crowd home empty.
To a man, the Caps all proclaimed that the season was still early. But an extra point in October counts the same as it does in March.