In their first game against a Western Conference team since January 14th, the Washington Capitals were unable to come up with a win despite winning two tough games in a row, losing 2-0 to the San Jose Sharks in Caps winger Alex Semin’s return after 12 games.
The game did not feature much action, as most of the play involved sticks tied up in the crease for the Sharks and otherwise neutral zone play for two whole periods. Just under the six minute mark of the third period though, San Jose scored two quick goals from Logan Couture and Dan Boyle within about two minutes of each other.
“It was kind of a weird game,” said Caps defenseman Scott Hannan, former San Jose Shark. “We have to be stronger than that, and we have to come out with more power than that.”
“We have to find a way to get the fans into it right away and feed off of that,” Hannan continued. “It’s a tough one to take and we’ve got another game on Saturday.”
Throughout the early portion of the game, the Capitals had the closer opportunities, especially early on. The first opportunity came just under eight minutes left in the first period when a Capitals flurry in the Sharks’ zone ended when Niemi supposedly had the puck. It would have been business-as-usual, except when the whistle blew, the puck popped out on Niemi’s side. Mathieu Perreault pushed the loose puck in the net, but the goal was waved off. The official who blew the whistle was not in the correct position to see the entire crease, and potentially cost the Capitals an early lead through the game.
With the washed-out goal, the Capitals’ next chance came with just under two minutes to play in the second period. Matt Hendricks untangled himself from the San Jose defense to get a breakaway. Unfortunately for him though, the Niemi stuck his right skate out just enough to keep the puck from going in behind him.
Even though the null goal was what head coach Bruce Boudreau described as “deflating,” Caps goalie Michal Neuvirth owned up to the lack of scoring through the rest of the game saying, “There were more chances after that.”
What the Sharks were able to do to actually take the advantage over Washington was get to a significant lead over the Caps in shots
and hold the Caps to few shots in total, much like the second period where Washington was only able to get four shots
The Sharks were able to do this by using their size and keeping the Caps’ play in the neutral zone and forcing it out to their end of the ice.
“They’re a big strong team,” Hannan said. “When they get the puck in deep and cycle it, that’s when they drag out plays in the offensive zone.”
Hannan added, “If we were a little quicker on the puck and able to break the puck out, you’ll get your chances against them. But you got to work.”
With Washington’s promising wins over the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Pittsburgh Penguins, they seemed to have found their “mojo” back. However, with Mike Green out of the line-up after taking a puck to the head in Sunday’s game, the Caps seemed slightly off in their ability to create offensive chances.
“I think our defense played fairly well,” said Boudreau about the team without Green. “but we don’t have that offensive guy who gets the puck moving and jumps in the play, so he is missed.”
Also with Washington, they fail to keep things simple when they are down, as Boudreau often stresses during games. Boudreau noticed it happened here against the Sharks as well. “They decided to get cute since they had a little bit of success,” said Boudreau. “But when you don’t stick with the game plan bad things usually happen.”
Notes: Alex Semin returned tonight, registering four shots on net. He was noted as being “tired” late in the game and needs to work on his conditioning… The Sharks will host the Caps in nine days on Jan. 17. The Capitals have off tomorrow, but return to practice on Thursday and play their next game against the Los Angeles Kings Saturday at home at 12:30 p.m.