The Capitals left D.C. a week ago with hope that their play away from home would improve. Four games against Eastern Conference rivals would put that hope to the test. Aside from a spirited third-period rally in Sunrise, Florida, this trip turned out to be nothing to write home about. Instead, a third straight setback was suffered in Ottawa, and a chance to climb in the Southeast division slipped away.
The Senators had returned to Scotiabank Place winners of three straight outings, the most recent of which was a thorough beat-down of the New York Islanders Monday, 6-0. Mega-talented defenseman Erik Karlsson led the attack on Long Island and he was the pace-setter again Wednesday against the Caps.
Karlsson beat Caps starter Tomas Vokoun with a shot that zipped between the goalies leg-pads at 9:36 of the first period. For all the Capitals desire to grab the lead, it belonged to Ottawa.
Five minutes later Karlsson banked a slap-pass from behind his own net all the way to Milan Michalek at the far blueline. From there, Michalek would make a slick move around Dennis Wideman before feathering the puck through Vokouns pads for a 2-0 advantage.
Washington would have to play catch-up without its captain and leading scorer Alex Ovechkin. Ovechkin was held out with a lower-body injury. He attempted to practice Wednesday morning but was not able to generate much power in his skating stride.
The Senators would not show any mercy to the Caps in the second period. Their lead grew to three goals when Michalek felt a long drive from Karlsson deflect off him and then swiftly past the glove side of the Capitals keeper.
One of the Caps best chances to interrupt the Ottawa goal-scoring run came off the blade of Marcus Johansson. He was set up beautifully in the slot by a Mike Green backhanded drop-pass. Senators goalie Craig Anderson made the save of the night with a sweep of his catching glove, a stop worthy of the standing ovation he received.
Soon after that the Ottawa lead ballooned to four goals when Chris Phillips cranked a hard slapshot off Vokoun and into the net. Coach Dale Hunter would pull Tomas from the cage after that strike, the Senators fourth on only 11 shots.
The third period would provide a glimmer of hope for the Caps, but the deficit would prove to be too great.
Alex Semin spotted John Carlson sneaking in from the point on a Washington power-play, before threading the needle with a pass that Carlson steered in for his 8th goal of the year.
Seven minutes would elapse before the Caps would strike again, and in a most unusual way.
Jason Chimera swung a pass to the front of the net that ramped up off an Ottawa defenders stick into the face of Mathieu Perreault and then back down into the open goal behind Anderson. He had a bloody lip (and maybe a loose tooth) but Perreault could smile about his 10th tally of the season.
Theres no doubt the Caps third period was their best Wednesday, but an open-net goal from Nick Foligno would clinch the 5-2 Senators win.
Washington thankfully returns home for a clash with Montreal Friday, and it sure seems like they are going to need to be almost perfect with their home dates to nail down a playoff berth. The road remains extremely unkind.
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