Inside the boxscore: Ward penalty proves costly

Inside the boxscore: Ward penalty proves costly
January 30, 2013, 8:00 am
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Oates: 'The important thing is that the boys are playing the right way'

Here’s a look inside the Capitals’ 3-2 loss to the Ottawa Senators at Scotiabank Place Tuesday night:

What it means: The Caps’ record drops to 1-4-1, keeping them at 14th in the Eastern Conference standings with three points, one ahead of the last-place Islanders, three points behind the eighth-place Rangers and eight points behind the first-place Bruins.

Coach’s challenge: In his short time with the Capitals Joel Ward has had some tough luck with high-sticking penalties. Who can forget the double-minor that led to the New York Rangers’  improbable comeback in Game 5 of last year’s Eastern Conference Semifinals?

That penalty, while unfortunate, was warranted. Tuesday night’s was not and it led to Sergei Gonchar’s game-winning power-play goal with 2:30 remaining in the third period.

Ward was following through with a dump-in along the boards when his stick caught Ottawa’s Patrick Wiercioch above the shoulders. According to Rule 60 of the NHL rulebook, “a player is permitted accidental contact on an opponent if the act is committed as a normal windup or follow through of a shooting motion. A wild swing at a bouncing puck would not be considered a normal windup or follow through and any contact to an opponent above the height of the shoulders shall be penalized accordingly.”

Momentum killer: Gonchar’s goal, which deflected off the shin pad of Matt Hendricks, kept the Caps from gaining at least a point, but the killer goal came with 1:13 remaining in the second period when Milan Michalek beat Michal Neuvirth with a backhander. Nicklas Backstrom won the defensive zone faceoff but rookie defenseman Tomas Kundratek failed to pick up Michalek. The Caps were leading in shots 24-15 at the time and it was a classic case of giving a team momentum with a goal in the closing minutes of a period.

Ovi watch: In 19:51 of ice time. Tops along all forwards, Alex Ovechkin did not record a shot until the third period and finished with just two. He had one blocked and another miss the net. He also tried stickhandling through two and three Senators at a time and was guilty of a third-period slashing penalty.

Minute munchers:  Mike Green led all Capitals with 25:01 of ice time and recorded a team-high 5 shots. John Erskine logged a gritty 21:12 of ice time and recorded a team-high 8 hits. He’s looking like a solid top-four defenseman alongside John Carlson [24:43].

Drawing board: Nicklas Backstrom won 13 of 19 faceoffs and Matt Hendricks won six of seven, but Mike Ribeiro struggled, losing nine of his 10 draws.

Looking ahead: Look for goaltender Braden Holtby [0-2-0, 5.04 GAA] to get the start when the Caps visit the 3-3-0 Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday.

Injury update: Brooks Laich [apparent groin strain] is expected to skate with the Caps on Thursday. Forward Marcus Johansson and defensemen Tom Poti and Roman Hamrlik were healthy scratches in Ottawa.