Jets winger Evander Kane continued to kill the Caps Tuesday, with a goal and an assist. (Clydeorama)
The Washington Capitals continued their slow start to the 2013 season Tuesday night, taking a 4-2 defeat at the hands of the Winnipeg Jets inside Verizon Center. The Capitals scored first with a deflection goal off the body of Matt Hendricks, but conceded four unanswered goals to Winnipeg before Troy Brouwer scored late in garbage time. Braden Holtby was solid, but unspectacular, making 35 saves in his second consecutive start. And no, it’s not time to panic. But the Capitals need to start getting better soon.
Washington got off to a good start in front of their rabid home crowd, forechecking effectively and forcing some turnovers at the blue lines. With just over ten minutes gone in the period and the Capitals still pressing, Matt Hendricks finished off a brilliant passing play by Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom to give Washington a 1-0 lead. 90 seconds later, Joel Ward was sent to the box on a tripping infraction, and the Caps’ early penalty killing woes continues when Evander Kane banked a goal off John Carlson’s skate and past Braden Holtby. Carlson’s night got worse immediately, as he was booked for delay of game with 5:30 remaining and the Jets scored again on their power play; this time it was Anderew Ladd who unloaded a one-timer that beat Holtby to his far side. The first period closed with that score intact.
The second period opened with less aggressive attacking by both teams, as they attempted to settle in to a rhythm and build possession into scoring chances. But past the five minute mark of the frame, Winnipeg again ramped up the pressure and garnered the majority of opportunities until the Capitals were granted their first power play of the evening with 9:30 to go in the period. However, the home side could not convert and the Jets made them pay when Kane danced through the neutral zone and fed Blake Wheeler for a tap in with just over five minutes left to play. The Caps tried desperately to get on the board before the period ended, but conceded once more with 45 seconds left as Jim Slater deflected one past Holtby to make the lead 4-1.
Needing a goal early in the period to make the game interesting again, Washington was granted a power play in the second minute of the frame but immediately gave it away when Troy Brouwer was boxed for cross-checking. No goals came from the action with fewer men, but the Capitals eventually began to build a little bit more pressure as the period neared its midway mark, and Ovechkin drew a penalty with nine minutes to go in the game. Washington’s man advantage bore no fruit, and the game progressed with little more action than a few power play and Hendricks’ second fight of the night. Troy Brouwer scored a power play goal late to cut the deficit to 4-2, but Washington could get no closer and dropped their first home opener in 11 seasons.
John Carlson was purty bad in this one. Evander Kane scored a goal off him, he took a bad penalty that led to a goal against, and he was undressed by Kane for the Jets’ third goal. Look: he’s still young and as good as he will be, he didn’t play anywhere during the lockout and it is showing. His partner in crime, Karl Alzner, is also struggling, and guess what? He didn’t play anywhere during the lockout, either. It will get better, but it’s tough to see right now.
This whole team is tough to see right now – it’s not just Carlson. There’s not one player, save Matt Hendricks, playing with full energy and ability. Not Nicklas Backstrom, Alex Ovechkin, or Braden Holtby. But it will get better. This is the consequence of a shortened season and a week-long training camp. Yes, the whole NHL has had to deal with that, but the whole NHL is not dealing with a third coach and third system in just about a season and a half. I think it will get better, but it is going to take some time. The negative overreaction, panic, and venom directed at this team right now is nothing short of embarrassing.
A minor note here – I thought Joey Crabb looked good in his Capitals debut. He played with energy and panache, which is what he was brought in to do, and made positive things happen whenever he got on to the ice. He won’t see a ton of ice, but if he can play like Hendricks, the Capitals will enjoy the dividends from that offseason signing.
The Capitals will practice on Wednesday at 11 am in Arlington. Their next game is against the Canadiens on Wednesday night.
Harry Hawkings is a college student credentialed to cover the Capitals for RtR. Follow him on Twitter here for all your news needs this season.