Power Trip: Caps Lose Shootout To Rangers

By Jim Iovino
|  Monday, Jan 24, 2011  |  Updated 11:15 PM EDT
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Power Trip: Caps Lose Shootout To Rangers

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Alex Ovechkin

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Last season, the Capitals scored 79 power-play goals in 82 games, ranking them best in the league.

But this season, well, the power is out, and the Caps are feeling the effects of an anemic man advantage.

They've score just 30 power play goals in 50 games. And that's just not going to cut it for a team that calls the power play its bread and butter.

Without that dynamite power play, the Caps are finding it much harder to win games. Case in point: Monday night's 2-1 shootout loss to the New York Rangers. While the Caps had just two power-play chances, they passed up several good scoring chances to try to make that perfect pass for a pretty goal.

Head coach Bruce Boudreau has seen that fish before.

"When you're having trouble scoring, we constantly preach to not pass up shots, and I think there were four or five times ... we'd fake a shot when we had a direct line so we could make a better play. We can't do that. You score your goals by shooting the puck and going to the net. We just didn't do it enough."

The Caps didn't even record a shot on their first PP chance of the game in the first period.

They got another chance in the second. This time Nicklas Backstrom made sure Washington registered a shot by firing one on net off the initial faceoff. It was a promising sign, as the Caps had several players hovering around the net creating havoc.

That initial success didn't translate into a goal, however, and the Caps reverted back to their fancy-pass ways. 

Alex Ovechkin had a prime opportunity for a scoring chance when he cut down the right wing, but instead of taking the shot, he opted to pass across to the left wing. Mike Knuble seemed surprised by the opportunity, and missed on the shot. Ovechkin eventually had another scoring chance in the same spot, and this time he actually sent the puck on net. The shot, however, went wide.

An opportunity missed, and the Caps didn't get another power-play chance the rest of the game.

"That one goal a game, that constitutes the difference between people saying we're not an offensive team to people saying we're an offensive team," Boudreau said of his team's power play. "A goal a game, it goes from 2.80 to 3.80, which is what we had last year -- you know, best in the league. When you're not scoring on the power play things aren't working."

The offense as a whole wasn't working on this night. The Caps registered just 23 shots on goal for the game. Of course, a high shot total doesn't equal success. (Just ask the drunk at your local watering hole.) The last time these teams met, the Caps outshot the Rangers 31-20, but lost the game 7-0.

What was working? The Caps' defense, which played a solid game in front of rookie goalie Braden Holtby. They cleared the lanes well, allowing Holtby to see the initial shot and limit rebounds.

And it was an unfortunate bounce that kept him from getting a win and possible shutout.

With the Caps up 1-0 in the third thanks to a Matt Hendricks goal, the Rangers' Marian Gaborik skated the puck into the Washington zone, dropped it off and then went to the net. The puck eventually found its way back to Brian Boyle at the point, and he cranked a shot on net that Holtby stopped, but the rebound popped into the air and hit Gaborik's arm or shoulder and even Karl Alzner's stick. It then trickled past Holtby and into the net to tie it at 1.

The play was reviewed but the goal stood.

That bounce killed the Caps' momentum and eventually led to a shootout loss -- one that saw Holtby play a tad too aggressive. But who could blame him. It was his first NHL shootout against the Rangers' high-skill players.

"It's a tough way to lose a game, but we were in it. We battled," he said. "In overtime, I think we took it to them pretty good. It's one of those games that you gotta work on a few things, but you can't be too upset with our effort."

That's all well and good coming from a goalie, but the Caps' coaches know there's plenty of work to be done in order to solve that power play dilemma.

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