|Recap: Hurricanes at Capitals by: Matt Witting November 8, 2001|
|The Capitals continued their slump in typical fashion on Thursday night, falling to Southeast Division leaders, the Carolina Hurricanes at MCI. The Caps jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the second period but surrendered three straight goals in the third to lose 3-2.
The first period was all Caps as they swarmed the ‘Canes and outshot them 13-4. Most of the chances were from the outside, but Barrasso, starting for Arturs Irbe, made a couple of good stops up close during the Caps three power plays. On defense, Washington kept Carolina to a few long range slappers. The Caps clogged the blue line, preventing the Canes from gaining the zone with possession, and seemed to win virtually every battle for a loose puck. Carolina didn’t help their own cause by playing a very conservative, passive game, and kept three men back for most of the frame. Thanks to Barrasso, the Caps were unable to capitalize on their great play and went into the first break tied at 0.
The second was a carbon copy of the first, except that Washington managed to light the lamp twice. The Caps continued to do all the little things well, and out-shot the ‘Canes 12-8 in the period. The penalty killers looked good killing two penalties (in addition to one in the first) and allowing only two shots total in 6 minutes of shorthanded play. Peter Bondra, as usual, got the Caps on the board 6 minutes into the second. He took a pretty feed from Zubrus entering the zone, circled towards the left faceoff circle and took advantage of the Hurricanes delay in closing in on him to launch a long range slap shot. The puck beat Barrasso top corner, short side, and the Caps had scored first for only the fourth time this season. Ten minutes later, on the power play, Ulf Dahlen added another goal. Halpern and Oates were playing catch to Barrasso’s right, until Jeff decided to push in for a stuff attempt. The Canes goalie got his pads on the puck, but Ulf Dahlen was loose in the crease and slipped the rebound by him for a 2-0 Caps lead. Shortly thereafter Chris Simon gave the Caps another power play opportunity by inciting Dingman (Carolina’s tough guy) enough that he dropped the gloves. Simon took some shots in the fight, but Dingman got the instigator and misconduct so the Caps got another PP opportunity. Unfortunately for them, they weren’t able to break through, but they went into the second intermission with a solid 2-0 lead.
Washington looked very good after two periods, but for the third game in a row they collapsed and lost due to third period breakdowns (3 goals allowed in St. Louis to lose 4-1, 2 allowed in Toronto to lose 4-2, 3 allowed to Carolina to lose 3-2). All the little things that the Caps did well in the first 40 minutes were suddenly forgotten as they stopped playing tight defense, stopped clearing loose pucks, and stopped winning battles along the boards. The Canes also abandoned their conservative stance from early on and pressed harder. Sami Kapanen got the first two goals for the Canes to draw them even in the first 7:26 of the third. His first goal was a backhand flick over Olie’s left shoulder into a tiny opening at the corner of the net on the power play. He followed his own shot, let Francis take the first rebound, then scored on the Francis rebound when Joe Reekie couldn’t decide which of the two players to take out and didn’t hit either one. His second goal three minutes later at even-strength was almost a carbon copy as he took a rebound of another Francis shot and lifted a forehand flick shot into the same spot he hit earlier, again unencumbered by the defense. At that point, sorry to say, most Caps fans knew that the Canes were going to get another as the momentum had completely shifted.
The Caps had a chance to regain the lead when Gelinas was called for a double minor (high sticking, unsportsmanlike conduct for arguing/breaking his stick) giving the Caps a 4-3 then a 5-4 power play for 4 full minutes. Zubrus, Gonchar, Bondra and Oates had good chances, but none were able to get the go-ahead goal. Finally Carolina killed off both penalties and promptly got the game winner themselves. Red hot Jeff O’Neill entered the offensive zone just after the penalties had expired and beat Olie 5-hole with a medium range wrister that the goalie would love to have back. The Caps pressed at the end, but Oates got called for holding the stick at the 17:33 mark and the Caps had to play 120 of the last 147 seconds short-handed and couldn’t score.
The Capitals are a team that looks lost. Only Klee (who left hurt), Bondra, Zubrus and Dahlen really look like they are in the game for the full 60 minutes. Olie Kolzig let in the third goal on a shot he should have stopped, and the defense allowed the Canes too many close chances in the third period, yet again. There was no spark to the play, even in the early going when they looked good. Even worse, only a couple of players seem able to convert, a far cry from last season when the Caps had more 10 goal scorers than any team in the league. The face Atlanta, a team that just gave up 8 goals to Buffalo, on Saturday, maybe that will be a chance to break out. Of course, that’s the same Atlanta team that shut Washington out 1-0 not so long ago. Another game, another loss, and an ever-widening gap between the Caps and first place in the Southeast.