Originally written on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 2/4/12

The Washington Capitals managed to win the last of their three road games played after the All Star break by beating the Montreal Canadiens this afternoon by a score of 3-0.  While that sounds like a lopsided victory, it was actually anything but — in fact, in most statistics other than the score, the Canadiens played a better game.

The Caps scored their first goal on a fluke slap shot by Dennis Wideman that barely made it to the net.  It was described by the TV announcers as a “knuckleball”, and during the break between the first and second period, Wideman said he was a “little embarrassed” by the goal.  The second goal was a solid score by Matt Hendricks, who hammered home a juicy rebound into an almost empty net.  Alexander Semin scored the final tally for the visiting Capitals, scoring on a penalty shot after being hooked by Montreal’s defense on a breakaway.

While there is clearly no doubt that the only statistic that really matters is the number of times each team lit the lamp, Montreal outshot the Caps 30-23, and were it not for outstanding play in net by Tomas Vokoun, Washington could easily have lost this game.  Montreal also bested the Capitals in hits (26-21), faceoffs (29-24), and takeaways (8-1).

Of greatest concern was the poor play in the defensive zone by Washington.  They were out hustled by the Canadiens and failed on multiple occasions to get the puck outside their own blue line, thereby giving Montreal chance after chance to put one into net.  Thank goodness that Vokoun was exceptional today — his play was the difference in today’s game.

Getting away with sloppy play against the Canadiens, currently in last place in the Eastern Conference, is one thing.  Let’s be clear, though — if Washington plays the same way against the Boston Bruins tomorrow, the capacity crowd in the Verizon Center will be very disappointed, and the Capitals will find themselves needing to work even harder just to make it into the playoffs.

Let’s Go Caps!


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