Tuesday, February 8, 2011 10:41 p.m.
CAPITALS PAGE CAPITALS VIDEOS
By Joe Beninati
WASHINGTON -- I would have lost a million-dollar bet if you told me at the outset of this season that the Washington Capitals would be shutout eight times this year. But those are the cold hard facts after another paltry offensive effort against Antti Niemi and the San Jose Sharks resulted in a 2-0 loss.
Niemi was very solid, but he did not have to great. The best two saves he made that I can recall both came at the same end of the rink. He made an awkward-looking glove save to thwart Nicklas Backstrom during a first period power play sequence.
In the third period he robbed Alex Semin, who was no more than 10 feet from him and had a more than decent look at the goal.
That save off Semin came just moments after the Sharks built their two-goal lead in the 3rd period.
The first two frames went by without many great scoring chances. David Steckel had a quick-developing breakaway in the middle period, only to see the puck roll off his stick-blade just before he would have converted on his forehand.
The opening 40 minutes were tough sledding for both squads. The Sharks defense is a powerfully-built unit, guys like Douglas Murray and Niclas Wallin are pretty rugged customers.
The Caps have been well-versed in these close, low-scoring games of late and they were dead even with San Jose well into the 3rd period.
Thats when Logan Couture, the rookie who surprisingly leads San Jose in goals, broke in from a sharp angle and managed to squirt one through Michael Neuvirth, who up until that point had matched Niemi save for save and then some. It was the kind of goal that NHL goalies dread giving up.
Couture is a leading candidate for NHL rookie of the year honors. His tally tonight proved to be San Joses game-winner for a remarkable eighth time. Seven of his GWGs have come on the road, which is a NHL rookie record.
The Sharks scored again just 2:12 after Couture struck. Dan Boyle moved well in from his point position, took a Dany Heatley pass, and crunched a slapper by Neuvirth on the short side.
After the game the Caps were lamenting the fact that they did not do the types of things that had been successful last week vs. Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh. Pucks werent getting in deep, and the work ethic necessary to retrieve them and create scoring chances was not there.
This was the first of five straight against Western Conference competition. The Caps get a chance at revenge against the Sharks next week in San Jose.
But for the next three days, theyll sit and watch the rest of the league at play before entertaining Los Angeles, Saturday afternoon at 12:30pm.