If there was a text book on how to lose games in the third period, it would begin with these instructions:
- Take five consecutive penalties to give your opponent five consecutive power plays.
- For good measure, give them a pair of 5-on-3 advantages.
That’s exactly what the Capitals did Thursday night at Verizon Center, turning a one-goal lead on spectacular performances by Alex Ovechkin and Braden Holtby into a crushing 3-2 loss to the New Jersey Devils.
Consecutive penalties to Matt Hendricks [holding], Jay Beagle [delay of game], Alex Ovechkin [tripping], John Erskine [hooking] and Tom Poti [interference] led to an even strength goal by Andrei Loktionov and a power-play goal by Ilya Kovalchuk, sending the Caps to their second straight loss.
“We feel like we were robbed a little bit tonight,” said Capitals right wing Troy Brouwer, who received a 10-minute misconduct for arguing with the officials after the game. “Two points, one point, anything was taken away from us. I’m not talking about penalties. I don’t feel like getting fined.”
“It’s tough,” said Nick Backstrom, who played 3:22 of the game on the penalty kill. “Especially when we’ve got a lead in the third. A couple tough calls, but we’ve got to be more disciplined, too.”
Capitals coach Adam Oates said he didn’t agree with the Ovechkin tripping penalty but would not let his players off the hook, especially since taking costly penalties has been a recurring theme for the Caps this season.
“How many times have we had this conversation?” Oates said. “It’s on us. We talked about playing disciplined and watching our sticks. There may be one or two that you can question but we still had too many penalties. We’re going to address it. It’s frustrating for all of us because we had a good game going.”
Ovechkin was particularly on a roll in the first two periods. The Capitals captain rumbled down the right side with speed one shift after another, drawing a pair of penalties and missing a breakaway before being relegated to the bench for much of the third period as the Caps spent 5:19 shorthanded.
“He missed three breakaways, so he’s doing some good things,” Oates said. “Obviously, we want him to score and I know he wants to score and those are Grade A opportunities. I was fine with him.”
The Capitals rolled out to a 2-1 lead on power-play goals by Mathieu Perreault [his second] and Mike Ribeiro [his sixth] but they came completely unraveled in the third period.
They gave the Devils their first 5-on-3 when, with Hendricks in the box, Beagle lifted the puck over the glass and into the Capitals’ bench. The referees did not call a penalty but the linesman insisted the puck went over the glass.
The refs incorrectly put Tomas Kundratek into the penalty box and Beagle explained why.
“Two of the refs had no clue, so one linesman was making that call,” Beagle said. “I could hear them talking and [the refs] didn’t see it. There was confusion and I was trying to hide. The faceoff was on my right-hand side and I want to take that draw and kill that off. I did a good job of hiding I guess.”
The Caps also did a good job of killing off the 5-on-3, but when Erskine and Poti took back-to-back penalties, the Devils cashed in on Kovalchuk’s point blast.
“They blocked a lot of shots but our power play coach wants us to be a shooting power play,” Kovalchuk said. “They kept blocking shots and the last one went through. So we’ll take the two points.”