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Caps can't get started vs. Canes, Ovechkin passes Selanne in career PPGs, more

by Mike Vogel @VogsCaps /

Sick Boys - The Caps went into the NHL's three-day holiday break with a fully healthy roster, and likely had no reason to suspect they would come back depleted when they faced a weekend set of back-to-back games on the other side of the break. But neither Michal Kempny nor Radko Gudas was able to partake in Friday's morning skate before a home game against Columbus, the Caps' first time back on the ice since suffering a 7-3 loss to the Bruins in Boston last Monday.

Washington recalled Christian Djoos from AHL Hershey, and Gudas showed up at game time and gutted his way through 11-plus minutes of work in a 2-1 win over the Blue Jackets on Friday. But there were ominous signs ahead of Saturday's contest against the Hurricanes in Carolina.

Caps coach Todd Reirden spoke with media a couple of hours before puck drop, mentioning that he had more than one player whose availability would be a game-time decision. Tom Wilson (lower body) was not able to get through warmup; he returned to the dressing room before line rushes and missed his first game of the season.

After the first period of Saturday's game, Djoos (upper body) retired for the night, leaving the Caps with five blueliners the rest of the way, some of whom might have been ailing themselves.

None of this sounds like much of a recipe for success against a fast and opportunistic team such as Carolina, and it wasn't on Saturday either, as the Caps couldn't quite get up the hill in a 6-4 loss to the Canes.

"Prior to the game I mentioned that there was some possibilities of some things," says Reirden. "[Wilson] wasn't the only one. We had some other things that we've got going on. I didn't really know going into the warmup how things were going to play themselves out, so that's what we went with, and that's how it goes sometimes."

Early penalty trouble - a recurring theme of late for the Caps - gave the Canes a 5-on-3 power play in the first, and they scored on the back half to take a 1-0 lead. Friday's game marked the third time in the last four games that Washington faced a 5-on-3 power play of at least 55 seconds in duration.

Eight seconds into the second, Carolina doubled the advantage with a 2-on-1 tally off the opening face-off of the frame.

For the remainder of the contest, whenever the Caps would pull to within a goal on the scoreboard, the Canes would respond to restore their two-goal cushion. It never took very long for Carolina's response; the Canes scored within 3:06 or less after each of Washington's first three goals of the game.

"We started making some pushes," says Reirden, "and then just couldn't string together a bunch of shifts in a row that we could really turn the corner on the game, and they were able to capitalize on their chances."

Washington's streak of five straight victories in the second half of back-to-backs came to a halt, and the Caps missed a chance to match a 35-year-old club record by sweeping four straight sets of back-to-backs. Of more immediate concern is the health of Washington's blueline corps. The Capitals host the Islanders on Tuesday afternoon in a New Year's Eve matinee match.

"He'll be evaluated by our doctors, but he wasn't able to complete the game," says Reirden of Djoos. "So that put us behind the eight ball, and we were dealing with some sickness back there as well.

"I'm proud of the guys for battling through on a back-to-back. It's always tough to lose to this team here, but there were opportunities, and the power play got going a little bit again tonight, so some positives you can take from it, but obviously a disappointing loss."

Super Powers - Alex Ovechkin rifled home the 256th power-play goal of his NHL career on Saturday, converting a sublime feed from Dmitry Orlov. With that goal, Ovechkin moves ahead of Hockey Hall of Famer Teemu Selanne and into sole possession of third place on the NHL's all-time power-play goals ledger.

Only Hockey Hall of Famers Dave Andreychuk (274) and Brett Hull (265) have amassed more extra-man tallies than Ovechkin.

Them Changes - With 1:13 remaining in Saturday's game, Gudas scored his second goal of the season to account for the 6-4 final score. But just as the Caps were about to take off on their flight home from Raleigh, word came that Gudas' goal had been changed to Richard Panik's fourth goal of the season. Panik apparently got a piece of Gudas' center point drive.

For his part, Gudas now has four points (one goal, three assists) in his last five games. Carl Hagelin earned the secondary assist on the goal, picking up his 250th career point (94 goals, 156 assists) in the process.

Rocky Road - Saturday's setback was the Caps' second in as many road games this week, leaving them 16-5-1 on the road for the season. The Capitals have lost three of their last four road games overall.

Down On The Farm - The AHL Hershey Bears saw their nine-game winning streak come to a halt on Saturday night at Giant Center in a 2-1 loss to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.

After a scoreless first frame, the Bears fell down 1-0 early in the second. Hershey drew even on a Matt Moulson power-play goal at 13:41 of the middle frame, his 12th goal of the campaign. Garrett Pilon and Mike Sgarbossa picked up assists on the lone Bears goal of the game.

Former Caps draft choice Thomas DiPauli scored a power-play goal early in the third to put the Baby Pens back on top, 2-1. Hershey was unable to muster an equalizer, and Vitek Vanecek (22 saves) took the loss, falling to 10-5-1 on the season.

The 17-10-2-3 Bears finish off a busy weekend of three games in as many days on Sunday afternoon when they travel to Allentown to take on the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.

Down a level, the ECHL South Carolina Stingrays hosted the Orlando Solar Bears on Saturday night at North Charleston Coliseum, and the Stingrays whitewashed the visitors, 3-0.

Jonathan Charbonneau, Andrew Cherniwchan, and Mark Cooper scored for South Carolina, with all three goals coming in the third period.

Logan Thompson stopped all 19 shots he faced in the Stingrays' nets, notching his second shutout of the season - and South Carolina's seventh - while improving his record to 11-2-1-0.

The 23-2-3-1 Stingrays are now idle until Friday, Jan. 3 when they host the Florida Everblades.

By The Numbers - John Carlson logged 27:04 in ice time to lead the Caps … Ovechkin and T.J. Oshie had four shots on net each to lead Washington, and Ovechkin led the way with nine shot attempts and five hits … Only three of the Caps' 18 skaters were not credited with a hit in Saturday's game … Jonas Siegenthaler led the Caps with four blocked shots … Lars Eller won seven of 10 draws (70 percent) and Nicklas Backstrom won 10 of 16 (63 percent).

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