Highlights: Ducks 3, Caps 2
Overall, the Capitals played well enough to beat the best team in the NHL Monday night.
They didn’t because Alex Ovechkin’s shot with 3:10 remaining in regulation was two inches too high and because of a couple missed defensive assignments.
It was those missed defensive assignments that bothered head coach Adam Oates the most following the Caps’ 3-2 come-from-ahead loss to Bruce Boudreau and the Anaheim Ducks.
“We made incorrect reads on the backcheck,” Oates said, “which by now we shouldn’t do.”
The Caps grabbed a 2-0 lead on first-period goals Mikhail Grabovski and Nicklas Backstrom and despite killing off 6:34 of power-play time by the Ducks, were 26.7 seconds away from escaping the second period with that lead.
That’s when Anaheim defenseman Ben Lovejoy rumbled down the right wing, held off Capitals defenseman Dmitry Orlov and one-handed a pass to an unguarded Koivu, who drilled home his fifth goal of the season to tie the score at 2.
“That’s the goal that hurt the most,” Oates said. “They get one rush and they put it in the net.”
Oates said there were a combination of mistakes on Koivu’s goal, with forwards Alex Ovechkin, Marcus Johansson and Nicklas Backstrom not tracking back properly and defenseman Mike Green defending the right post instead of the left.
“Orlov had pretty good position on him and could have gotten stick on puck maybe,” Oates said. “I thought Green faded to the wrong post, quite honestly.”
Oates said there was also poor tracking on the Ducks’ third goal, which came when defenseman Hampus Lindholm hammered home a deep rebound on a Philipp Grubauer save on Ryan Getzlaf.
The Ducks also did a masterful job of limiting the Caps to just 19 shots, five of them from Ovechkin, who also had six shots blocked and three more miss the net. In all, the Ducks blocked 21 shots.
Despite all of that, the Caps were just a few inches away from tying the game when Ovechkin rang a shot off the top left corner, where the post meets the crossbar. The sellout crowd erupted with 3:10 remaining, only to be forced to wait until the next stoppage for a replay.
The arena scoreboard replay was inconclusive, but the overhead angle provided to the NHL war room in Toronto clearly showed the puck hitting the post and bouncing on the goal line and out of the crease.
Anaheim goaltender Jonas Hiller had better, more irrefutable evidence.
“I saw the one replay they showed [on the scoreboard] and it looked like it was in on that one,” Hiller said. “But looking at the crossbar, you can still see the mark, so I was pretty sure it wasn’t a goal.”
The Capitals now have three days to reflect on the loss and where they stand in the Metropolitan Division after 37 games – four points ahead of the third-place Flyers and 13 behind the first-place Penguins.
“Overall, I thought we played all right,” said Backstrom, whose ninth goal of the season gave the Caps a 2-0 lead. “It’s hard to say you played all right when you lose, that’s for sure.”