Kind of depressing, these last two Caps games. I went into Saturday's game thinking that the Caps should win (and I still think they should have). They played reasonably well, and farily evenly, for the first half of the game. They were still down 2-1 at that point, but the play was pretty even.
They were pretty heavily outplayed for the rest of the second period, but kept the score even. And near the middle of the third, Backstrom even tied it up at two. But shortly after that, they took a pair of double minors, almost back-to-back, leaving themselves in the PK for a long, long time. Tavares scored on both power plays (thirty seconds apart, it turns out) to break the game open.
To make it even weirder, the reason I had no idea how close the two were scored is that the second one was in and out of the goal so fast that the refs couldn't tell that it was a goal. Play continued until the next stoppage (when the Islanders actually scored again) several minutes later. But they did award the Tavares goal (quite correctly), leaving the Caps with two more minutes of PK to go. So they were really playing PK for almost nine minutes straight. Ugh.
Unsurprisingly, they didn't manage to come close to doing anything else the rest of the period. In fact, when they finally got a power play, they managed to give up a shorty only nine seconds in (I was only half paying attention by that point, but that had to be only a second or two longer than the theoretical minimum for a short-handed score without the goalie being pulled). Sad.
That was enough for me to turn it off. Yuck.
One note of some encouragement. Holtby didn't get the start, which I was glad of, and with Neuvy sick again, Grubauer got the start. I don't think Gru was great, but he wasn't bad. I think he should have had two of the goals, but he did have a number of pretty awesome stops. And even if he had made both of the saves I thought he should have, they still would have lost. Oh, and while the overall save percentage was a lackluster .889, that includes saving 17 of 19 on the power play. Yep, 19 (!) power play shots. That's pretty darned good on the power play (and pretty sick that they gave up that many power play shots.
The other encouraging part was that the Backstrom goal was a thing of beauty. Not the shot itself, but the three consecutive one-touch passes leading to the one-touch shot. Fantastic setup.
Not so encouraging was that the shot total was 45-24. Not going to win too many games getting outplayed like that.
And the kicker was that Carolina won yesterday evening, so there was nothing to cushion the blow.
Today was annoying in a different way. I didn't check the start time until close to 1330, so I hadn't realized they were playing a second consecutive matinee game (I didn't think they ever did that). So when I turned it on, it was just in time to see the last second or two tick off the clock of the first period. And apparently they started out pretty strong (plus, the score was tied at one).
Shot differential wasn't looking good (down 12-8), but scoring chances were actually in the Caps favor.
That was as good as it got, though, as the ice was pretty heavily tilted in New York's favor. The Caps did manage some really beautiful chances, but only a couple of sustained barrages, which Biron calmly met.
Penalties were again a significant factor, too. OV managed to pick up two minors in a few seconds in the second. The Rangers scored on the delayed call, then still got an immediate power play (don't think I've ever seen that happen before). They then managed to score only forty seconds later to ice the game.
There were a few encouraging signs after that (the 5-on-3 at the end of the second period was particularly encouraging, and where several of those nice chances I remarked on came from), but no breakthrough.
And when they were really pushing hard, with only a couple minutes left in the game, the Rangers scored again to kill what little hope remained. I did not bother to watch those last couple minutes.
I'm a bit surprised now, looking at the box score, that the shot totals were almost even. It appears, though, that they weren't close at even strength. The Caps had nine power play shots, plus one short-handed, while the Rangers only had the one special teams shot. So at even strength it really wasn't very close. Not encouraging.
Anyway, the Caps have only a very slim chance at the playoffs now. I'd call them toast, although there's still a tiny chance if they can take all of the reamining games against Carolina (yeah, the next two games are a home-and-home with Carolina, and the margin is zero, there). Half the season is left, and they can afford to lose... five, maybe? Not looking good.