On Thursday, the Washington Capitals suffered their first loss of the season to the up and coming Edmonton Oilers by a score of 2-1.
First off, the Capitals did not play like a first place team. The team took a grand total of 9 penalties and both of the Oilers goals came via the powerplay. This really handicapped the Capitals for basically the whole 2nd period where they took 5 of the 9 penalties, while the Oilers didn’t take a penalty at all during the 2nd period.
The Capitals started off strong by dominating the young Oilers all over the ice and eventually broke through courtesy of Karl Alzner on a nice point shot that beat a semi-screened Nikolai Khabibulin to make it 1-0. Then, late in the 1st, with the Oilers on a 4 on 3 powerplay, defenseman Corey Potter gets the puck at the point, fakes the shot, passes to Jordan Eberle beside the net and he touch-passes it over to Taylor Hall on the other side of the net and he finishes off a nice passing sequence to tie it at 1 going into the 2nd period. The 2nd, as I mentioned before, was ugly. 5 penalties for the Caps, none for the Oilers. And on one of those 5 penaties, a Troy Brouwer hooking call, the Oilers score. 2011 #1 overall pick Ryan Nugent-Hopkins works the puck up the side boards and passes to Corey Potter (more on him later) who one-times it and Tomas Vokoun allows a juicy rebound to Jordan Eberle and he buries it for the eventual game winner, 2-1 Oilers.
There were some bright spots for the Caps tonight. 3 Caps defensemen went over 20 minutes tonight. Dennis Wideman, John Carlson and Roman Hamrlik. Alzner got his first of the season and hey, it’s only the first loss for the Capitals so I won’t dwell on it too much. Just shake it off and get ready for the Canucks tonight.
As for the Oilers. Khabibulin stole this one, and he’s been doing that for, not only this year, but for most of his career. He made 34 saves on 35 shots and got his 4th win of the season. The 38-year old Russian netminder also leads the NHL in GAA and SV% (0.97 and .964) as he’s really been the reason why the Oilers are, now, in first place in the Western Conference (they beat the Colorado Avalanche 3-1 on Friday, thanks to a 40 save performance from back-up Devan Dubnyk).
Also, I mentioned him twice in this article so far, Corey Potter. The 27-year old American was signed to a one year contract over the off-season and so far has been terrific. His biggest contribution has been on the powerplay where he has collected 5 of his 6 points. If he can keep this up, the Oilers will have a nice powerplay specialist to go along with their young forwards.
So, like I said earlier, penalties killed the Capitals. They dominated 5 on 5 but they took too many penalties. Let’s hope they can get back in the win column vs a struggling Vancouver Canucks tonight.