Joe B: Loss of altitude for Caps

Joe B: Loss of altitude for Caps
December 18, 2011, 3:01 pm
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DENVER -- First off, its necessary to say that this game was rarely, if at all, pleasing to the eye. The Caps and Avalanche both had difficulties generating a smooth attack.

Earlier in the day, players in the Washington dressing room were discussing the soft ice conditions at Pepsi Center, and that may have impacted the performance this evening. Regardless of the ice quality, this loss in the Mile High City is a downer.

The Caps were gunning for their third straight road win and a sweep of their two outings away from D.C. this week. Back on Thursday, they put a hammer lock on the Winnipeg Jets, in another game that wasnt going to win any beauty contests.

Michal Neuvirth received the starting nod in goal for Washington, hoping to carry over his shutout efforts from Manitoba. He was also hoping to face his former teammate, Semyon Varlamov, now the lead netminder for the Avs.

As it turned out, that would not happen.

Colorado coach Joe Sacco informed everyone yesterday morning that Varlamov would not face his old buddies, since he developed a minor back ailment during the last Avalanche game in San Jose Thursday. Veteran stopper J.S. Giguere would tend goal for the Avs.

The home team took an early first-period lead thanks to a goal the type of which we are not likely to see for a long while. Working down the left wing boards, Cody McLeod encountered John Carlson approximately two feet inside the Caps defensive zone. With the puck bouncing around Carlsons skates, McLeod hacked the puck toward the net and an unsuspecting Neuvirth. The disc floated past Neuvirth on the glove side with the goalie never fully tracking its flight until the puck landed in the net. It was a very odd-looking goal, and thats an understatement.

Matt Hendricks and Cody McLeod would drop the gloves 10 minutes after the Avs took that 1-0 lead. Hendricks and McLeod are good friends, dating back to when Hendricks used to be on the Colorado roster. That didnt stop them from trying to beat each other down. McLeod landed a couple of strong right hands to win a decision.

Alex Semin would get only one shot through to the net tonight, and he hit pay-dirt with it in the second period. Semin raced into the offensive zone and whipped a wrist shot around defenseman Shane OBriens stick and over the glove of Giguere.

The tie game would last a mere 54 seconds. Avs defender Erik Johnson, a former No. 1 overall draft pick, has had a difficult time meeting expectations this year, but he would be the one to score for Colorado. Hes long been recognized for having a cannon-like slap shot, and he blasted one from outside of 60 feet past a screened Neuvirth for a 2-1 lead, and what would be the eventual game-winning goal.

In the third period, the Avs made sure to get pucks deep in the Washington zone. And once they did, they put pressure on to keep Washington hemmed inside. There was one 10-minute stretch where the Caps did not test Giguere with a shot.

It was one of the few nights this season where the Caps were ineffective at the faceoff dot. Paul Stastny led the way for Colorado, winning 16 of 24 draws on the night, and several in the final 90 seconds of the third period to help squash any hopes of a comeback for the Capitals.

A return engagement with Nashville on Tuesday at Verizon Center is next up for the Caps. Those two clubs played a whale of a game in Music City last month, with the Predators celebrating a 3-1 win.

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