Five first period penalties (including a bad tripping penalty by Alex Ovechkin ten seconds in, a double-minor to John Erskine and a Too Many Men bench minor) tell you most of what you need to know about last night's 3-1 loss to the Rangers. Olie Kolzig's 38 saves on 41 shots against and Henrik Lundqvist's 24-for-25 tells you the rest.
The Caps looked rusty coming out of the gate last night, as they were outshot 20-7 and outscored 3-1 in the opening stanza. The second period saw more discipline from the visitors but a similar result on the shot counter (the Rangers had a 17-7 edge in second-period shots), and Kolzig kept the game close enough for the Caps to have a reasonable chance at tying the game.
The teams played even five-on-five, with the Caps out-shooting the Rangers 22-20 in those situations, but Washington's penalty-kill struggled, with all three goals coming down low (Erskine and Tom Poti were each on the ice for two of the goals against, and Brian Pothier didn't exactly distinguish himself either). Does the PK miss Boyd Gordon that much? Maybe so - Chris Clark was out there for each of the Rags' goals.
All that said, if the puck bounced a little differently at the very end of the second period, it may have been a different game altogether. But the bottom line was that the Caps didn't deserve to win and, unlike on Monday on the Island, they got what they deserved - their first loss of the season. The new look power play looked a lot like the old one, registering only two shots on goal in 7:29 of work with the extra man (the power play did click in one of its four opportunities - more on that in a second - but that was on a busted play and a great effort by Mike Green to get the puck to AO), and the shots against were obscenely high. For all the talk of an improved defense, the Caps find themselves in familiar territory, near the very bottom of the League in shots allowed per game, and if not for other-worldly goaltending through four games, things would look a bit different right now, to say the least.
Finally, despite his self-described "terrible" penalty, AO was able to score his 100th career goal and move past Jaromir Jagr on the Caps' all-time scoring list, but that's cold comfort on a night on which Jagr assisted on all three Ranger goals.
Now it's off to Buffalo, where a well-rested Sabres team was been waiting (and scouting) after putting up a touchdown against the Thrashers on Thursday (Scott Norwood must've missed the extra point). If the Caps don't fix certain things (and fast), they could be in for a long night.
For more from the Sabres side of things, check out my virtual pals (at least until tonight) at BfloBlog and Sabre Rattling.
Elsewhere 'Round the Rinks (and Beyond):
In a QMJHL matchup of top Caps prospects last night, Francois Bouchard and Mathieu Perreault each had a pair of assists in Baie-Comeau's 3-2 win over Acadie-Bathurst.... We're not really doing Saturday Open Threads now that the season has started, but be sure to grab a Guinness and check out this clip that Allsmoke sent along. Killer tune (and teeth).
- Hart: Phil Kessel (3G, A, 5 SOG, +2)
- Ross: Marc Savard (5 points)
- Norris: Zdeno Chara (2A, +2, 3 SOG, 4 hits)
- Vezina: Manny Legace (W, 24 saves on 25 shots against)
- Richard: Phil Kessel (3 goals)
- Calder: Milan Lucic (Gordie Howe Hat Trick, including the game-winning goal, his first in the NHL, 3 SOG, 4 hits)
- Aiken: Jonathan Bernier (L, 7 goals allowed on 30 shots against)