Beninati: Too little, too late

Beninati: Too little, too late
December 12, 2010, 1:50 pm
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Sunday, December 12, 2010, 2:33 a.m.

By Joe Beninati
Capitals Play-by-Play

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Youd have to go a long way to convince me that the Capitals would get completely skunked over a four-game homestand. But thats now a reality for this team; four straight losses at home, and five consecutive setbacks in total for the first time ever under Bruce Boudreau.

The first thing we noticed about the Colorado Avalanche was just how quickly they skated. Head Coach Joe Sacco, a former Cap left wing, had his team flying from the opening faceoff. Their defensemen are especially fast and very active in joining the rush, which makes them difficult to defend.

You would have sworn that rookie blueliner Kevin Shattenkirk was a right wing in the first 10 minutes of the game. He was always way up in the play, below the goal-line at times, creating a scoring threat.

It was Shattenkirk who gave the Avs the early lead. His shot from a severe angle crossed up Caps goalie Michael Neuvirth and slipped between his pads and into the goal. There havent been many instances where Neuvirth has allowed soft goals this season, but that was definitely one he should have had no trouble stopping.

Washington would counter about seven minutes later when Alex Ovechkin drove hard to the net and flipped a backhand off goalie Craig Anderson. As the puck floated in the crease, Mike Knuble managed to get good position in front of the net to bat the rebound out of mid-air. It was the kind of hard-working, pay-the-price goal the Caps have been craving.

The key moment in the second period involved Alex Semin and John-Michael Liles exchanging cross-checks in front of the Avalanche goal. Liles definitely gave Semin the first little jab, but when Semin hauled off and cross-checked him in return, we feared it would be costly. The stick appeared to have grazed Liles shoulder before it made contact with his helmet. The Caps leading goal-scorer was tossed from the game and hit with a five-minute major. Any time a player is ejected from the game for a stick-related penalty, he is subject to supplementary discipline from the NHL. Semins availability for the Ranger game Sunday will be determined by the league office. Reports after the game lead us to believe that he will NOT be suspended.

During the ensuing power-play, the Avs didnt pose much of a threat for the first three minutes, but then Shattenkirk appeared along the boards and whipped a cross-ice pass to a wide-open Paul Stastny who redirected home his second goal in as many games, and his third point in this contest.

Trailing by two in the third period, the Caps put on a determined rally in the final 20 minutes. They were overpowering at times, producing consistent pressure on Anderson who managed to hold them off.

Washington would get one goal back thanks to Matt Hendricks. The former Avalanche winger had this date circled on the calendar, and played like a man possessed. Colorado chose not to re-sign him at the end of last year and this game was all business for him.

Hendricks was camped out in front of Anderson on the power-play and tapped a blind backhand between his own skates past the startled goalie.

The last three minutes of the outing were played almost exclusively in the Avalanche defensive zone. The home team had several good-looks at a tying goal, the best of which may have belonged to Nicklas Backstrom, but did not convert in the clutch.