Originally posted on Rock the Red  |  Last updated 3/18/12

The Washington Capitals were utterly outclassed by a superior hockey team on Sunday night, beaten down by a 5-2 score inside the Madhouse on Madison.  The Caps trailed 2-0 after only seven minutes and never recovered.  They got goals from Alex Ovechkin and Mike Knuble to make it a tad more interesting in the second period, but by that time, the game was for the most part over, with the Hawks in control.  Michal Neuvirth made 24 saves for the Caps in goal, who have now lost two games in a row.

Chicago got off to a strong start, opening the scoring after a little more than four minutes in to the game when a Duncan Keith shot was tipped past Michal Neuvirth by Andrew Shaw in front.  After their goal, the Hawks kept pressing for a second, and got it a few minutes later when Viktor Stalberg beat Dmitry Orlov cleanly with his wheels and tucked it past a sprawled Neuvirth to double their lead.  At that point in the game, the Hawks had two goals and ten shots, while the Capitals had exactly zero shots on goal.

With six minutes left in the first period, Chicago was given their first power play of the night when Jason Chimera was boxed for slashing.  Washington killed off the penalty well, and even managed to get their first shot on goal of the game while shorthanded, but Chicago continued to carry the pace of play despite not scoring on their power play.  The period closed just like it started, with the Blackhawks dominant and leading 2-0.

As the second period began, the Capitals came out hard, getting a chance in the opening 30 seconds of the frame.  They struck quickly anyway, as Keith Aucoin took advantage of a turnover in the corner to feed Mike Knuble in front for a one-timer that cut the lead in half.  But Patrick Kane restored the two-goal lead six minutes later when he stripped John Carlson of the puck and finished off a quick passing play into a yawning cage.

After Kane’s goal, the home team continued to press, forechecking their opponent consistently and not letting them get any sort of sustained offensive pressure against Corey Crawford.  It didn’t take long for the Hawks to strike again, as Shaw walked out from behind the net and wrapped one around Neuvirth for a 4-1 lead.  Ovechkin would alnswer right back with a pretty goal of his own a short while after Shaw’s marker, but the Hawks remained in control of the game as the period closed, taking a 4-2 lead into the second intermission.

In the final period of regulation, the Caps got their first power play of the game after two minutes when Patrick Sharp got sent off for tripping.  Predictably, though, the Caps wasted that chance without even getting a shot on goal.  As the period continued and the game began to wind down, Chicago then began to place a stranglehold on the contest, keeping possession of the puck for long stretches and not even giving the Caps a chance to get back in the game.  With an empty net, the Hawks added another to make it 5-2 and win the game.  Chelsea dagger’d.

Observations:

Alex Ovechkin’s defensive zone coverage is a joke.  On two goals, the first one and the fourth one, Ovechkin took himself out of the play by putting his skates on train tracks and moving away from the play, losing his man.  It makes no sense to me how anyone can be so defensively unaware.  Like it or not, Alex, Dale Hunter coaches man on man defense, and you can’t float around looking for loose pucks like you could three years ago.  Sheesh.

Poor Michal Neuvirth.  Don’t get me wrong, he wasn’t great, but the defensive coverage in front of him is like a house of cards sometimes.  It should be poor (insert Capitals goaltender here), actually.  Neuvirth made some nice saves earlier in the game, too, so I give him credit.  With Vokoun injured, it’s going to be very interesting to see who gets the start in Detroit – Neuvirth or Holtby.

PSA: This is what a good hockey team looks like.  The Hawks are missing their best player and captain, who also happens to be one of the top four players on the planet.  Didn’t stop them.  They have an ace coach, they have a system that they are good at and are designed to win in.  Funny how that works.

The Caps play next Monday night in Joe Louis Arena.

Harry Hawkings is a college student who covers the Caps for RtR.  Follow him on Twitter here.
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