Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau knew it would be no small task beating the New Jersey Devils on back-to-back nights. Accomplishing it with just four healthy defensemen made it nearly impossible.
David Clarksons goal in the fourth round of the shootout lifted the Devils to a 3-2 win over the Capitals Saturday night at the Verizon Center.
Zach Parise also scored for the Devils in the shootout, while Alex Ovechkin scored for the Capitals.
Clarkson beat Capitals goaltender Michal Neuvirth with a strong forehand-to-backhand move that decided the game and kept Boudreau from notching his 200th NHL coaching victory.
More importantly, the Capitals were forced to over-extend their blue line after Roman Hamrlik was forced to sit out the final period with an injury. Boudreau said Hamrlik was cross-checked late in the second period and listed him as day-to-day.
Defenseman John Erskine missed the entire game with what is believed to be a shoulder injury.
As a result, defenseman Dennis Wideman logged a season-high 33 minutes, 52 seconds of ice time, while Brooks Laich logged 23:26 in his first game of the season on the blue line.
"When Roman went down I was a little worried," Boudreau said. "I was a little worried about the fatigue setting in."
"I was starting to get a little tuckered at the end," Wideman said. "You try not to get too out of position and not get too caught and you try to conserve where you can."
The Capitals best chance to win the game in regulation came with 10:14 remaining when Troy Brouwer sent Jeff Halpern in alone on Devils goaltender Johan Hedberg.
Halpern deked left and had Hedberg down and out but the goalie went spread eagle on him and got his left pad on Halperns shot to keep the score tied.
The Caps spent the final 1:47 of regulation on the power play but couldnt get a puck past Hedberg, finishing the night 0-for-5. Hedberg's biggest save of the overtime came when he got his right pad on a point-blank shot by Wideman in the opening seconds of overtime.
"I tried to go high blocker and he got the shaft of his stick on it," Wideman said.
The Capitals managed just 17 shots in 65 minutes of play, while the Devils managed just 19.
The Capitals used their speed advantage to grab a 2-0 lead on hard-work goals by Brouwer and Jason Chimera in the first period but backed off their aggressive style in the second and allowed the Devils to come back to tie.
Brouwer got things started 6:30 into the game when he intercepted a pass by Devils rookie Adam Henrique inside the Devils blue line and darted to the net. With Henrique and Anton Volchenkov in pursuit, Brouwer moved left to right and beat Devils goaltender Johan Hedberg high to the glove side for his fourth goal of the season.
A little more than 10 minutes later Chimera crashed the net and got his stick on a John Carlson blast just before Devils defenseman Henrik Tallinder knocked him to the ice.
The goal was Chimeras sixth of the season. Last season he didnt net his sixth goal until Jan. 16.
But for all the hard work they exhibited in the first period, the Caps came out timid in the second period, getting outshot 6-2 and outscored 2-0.
A lost faceoff in the defensive zone by Mathieu Perreault led to the Devils first goal at the 12:18 mark of the second period. Veteran Patrik Elias beat Perreault off the draw, allowing former Capital Dainius Zubrus to get the puck back to Petr Sykora for a slapshot that eluded Neuvirth.
The Devils seemed energized by the goal pinned the Caps in their own zone for much of the final five minutes of the second period, breaking through with the game-tying goal with 66 seconds to play.
Devils forward Ryan Carter, who knocked Mike Green out of Friday nights game with a hard check along the boards, found an open spot in the slot and redirected a Bryce Salvadore centering pass for his first goal of the season.
Boudreau seemed disappointed by the second goal, saying a player was caught "circling" in the defensive zone. Ovechkin was one of the players that had trouble getting in the way of Salvadore's pass to Carter.
Erskine participated in pregame warmups but sat out with soreness believed to be associated with his surgically repaired shoulder. With Erskine out, the Capitals went with 13 forwards and five defensemen, using Laich on a defense pairing with Hamrlik. "It wasn't anything to panic about," Laich said. "We just tried to make simple plays."