Five in less than eight minutes prove too much to overcome
It has been an issue all season for the Capitals. The coaching staff has pleaded and prodded its players to cut down on their penalties. Even the general manager has weighed in.
It was all for naught Thursday at Verizon Center. A game in which Washington led the New Jersey Devils by a goal in the third period turned against them in a disastrous 7:56 span thanks to five consecutive minor penalties.
Only one led to a power-play goal against. But New Jersey already had tied the game thanks to a goal at even strength just 27 seconds after an Alex Ovechkin minor expired. It all added up to a 3-2 loss for the Caps, one of their most deflating of this disappointing season.
Washington (5-10-1, 11 points) took six penalties in the third period overall, though one was a coincidental minor with a player from each team going to the penalty box. But after that passed without incident and with the Caps still ahead 2-1, they lost focus. Matt Hendricks (holding), Tomas Kundratek (delay of game), Ovechkin (tripping), John Erskine (hooking) and Tom Poti (interference) were all whistled for infractions. That led to 3:49 of four-on-three and five-on-three hockey for the Devils. And while they didn't take advantage of those opportunities, eventually the chances drained Washington's players.
"You start the third period, you got the lead and then give them two five-on-threes in one period. Obviously that's just too much," Caps coach Adam Oates said. "I thought maybe a couple of the calls were tough calls ... but how many times are we going to have this conversation? It's on us."
Despite yeoman's work by the penalty killers to maintain the lead through the first three penalties, they couldn't prevent Andrei Loktionov's goal off a faceoff win. Adam Larsson's point shot smacked off goalie Braden Holtby and led to a juicy rebound. That goal tied the game at 9:19.
New Jersey went ahead at 11:40 on a power-play goal by star winger Ilya Kovalchuk. He put all his weight into a point shot that beat Holtby (34 saves). The Devils then held on down the stretch for the victory. Still, despite Oates' admonitions, the anger was palpable in the Washington locker room afterward.
"We feel like we were robbed a little bit tonight," forward Troy Brouwer said. "Two points, one point, anything kind of that was taken away from us there."
Ovechkin, who played a strong game, drew a second-period penalty with a power move up the right wing past a Devils defenseman. Late in the man-advantage, Brouwer made a power move of his own and flipped a backhand shot on goalie Martin Brodeur (17 saves). Mathieu Perreault was there to roof the rebound for a 1-0 lead.
It didn't last long, however. Just 20 seconds into another power play, Carlson was stripped behind his own net by Devils forward Adam Henrique. He quickly found Patrik Elias for an easy short-handed goal at 11:16 of the second period.
Again the Caps responded. On that same power play, some tough puck pursuit led to a floating, deflected pass into the slot by Brouwer. Mike Ribeiro, alone for a split-second, quickly corralled it and slammed a shot between Brodeur's pads to make it 2-1.
"That's a game that you didn't think you were going to lose," Oates said.