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Varlamov, defense struggle in 6-5 loss to Senators

After watching his team suffer a second straight sloppy loss, Coach Bruce Boudreau did not mince his words.

"It was an ugly display," he said following Thursday night's 6-5 loss at Scotiabank Place, the Caps' first regulation defeat in 16 games. "I thought our defense was horrible and our goaltending was horrible. You're not going to win when you give up six goals and maybe five of them are bad ones and our 'D' can't make a play. It's awful."

Yep, that's about right. In fact, Alexander Semin's hat trick - the Capitals' third in three games - might have been the only highlight for the Caps, who have surrendered 23 goals the past five games.

Check out my gamer here, then come on back for some notes and quotes from tonight's loss:

*Ottawa defenseman Anton Volchenkov earned his paycheck. He limited Alex Ovechkin, the NHL leader in shots on goal, to just one shot in 27:42. Ovechkin had eight attempts blocked; Volchenkov finished with 11 blocks and was named the No. 1 star of the game.

In all, the Senators blocked 29 shots to the Caps' 5.

*Ovechkin was also in the penalty box for interference when Alex Kovalev scored the game winner in the third period.

*The player who received the brunt of Boudreau's wrath, however, was Semyon Varlamov. He yielded a goal on the first shot he faced and never seemed to fully regain his focus.

Was he rusty in his first NHL start in more than two months? Absolutely. But Boudreau called him out for being unprepared.

"I don't think he was ready to play," the coach said. "He knew he was going to play. He's had 12 days of practice and a game under his belt. It's his responsibility to be ready. When you say, he's rusty, it's an excuse. And excuses aren't tolerated. The puck's going through his legs? He's been making that save since he was seven years old. Unless his memory banks have lost it. He should have made the saves. But the giveaways by our defensemen were more horrible than the goaltending, and I didn't think the goaltending was good."

Unless something changes, Jose Theodore is expected to be back in net Saturday in St. Louis.

*The Caps' D struggled Wednesday in Montreal. It looked even worse tonight without Tom Poti (groin muscle strain) and Shaone Morrisonn (flu). Turnovers. Failed clearing attempts. Screening Varlamov. They were guilty of just about everything.

"We're trying to do too much," Jeff Schultz said. "Instead of putting [the puck] up the boards, we're trying to force it up the middle. Teams have been taking that away, and we're still trying to do it. We're watching instead of moving in and closing in on the players, and that's giving them time and space."

*Tomas Fleischmann scored his 18th goals, but he continued to struggle in the faceoff circle, winning just two of his 11 faceoffs. He was beaten cleanly by Jason Spezza on the Senators' second goal, which was scored by Milan Michalek.

On Wednesday, Fleischmann won three of his 14 draws. Which means the second line has spent a lot of time chasing the puck instead controlling it.

Boudreau was really in rare form in his postgame news conference, and I thought he summed up the night's events well with the following thought:

"Their goalie wasn't any good, either. They just got more shots, so they scored the extra goal."

The Caps are scheduled to have a sparsely attended practice tomorrow at Scotiabank Place. I'm not going to make it because of travel complications, but I hope to have an update later in the day.

By Tarik El-Bashir  |  February 11, 2010; 11:43 PM ET
 
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Next: Alexander Semin has a hat trick, but Caps still lose

Comments

regroup boys - i'm expecting a one game winning streak going into the break

Posted by: Capt_Kirk_in_AZ | February 12, 2010 12:02 AM | Report abuse

Bad game by Varly, but I think it's excusable. Sloan was AWFUL for the third night in a row. He has no business playing in the NHL. The only good thing about him is he doesn't take dumb penalties but that's mostly because he's too busy standing around screening his own goalie.

Flash and the third line were pretty rotten, too. Let's face it, Flash is not working out at center. I love Flash, but he's a defensive liability.

Nice game from Semin and Morrison coming through when the top line got shut down.

Posted by: butcherbaker | February 12, 2010 12:28 AM | Report abuse

@Capt_Kirk_in_AZ

Yes, boys, please regroup. A win against St Louis will put the team with a better frame of mind, going into the break.

We need better defense.

We should NOT be losing games where we score 5 goals. Any team with NORMAL caliber defense which scores 5 goals wins the game.

Posted by: CapsFan75 | February 12, 2010 12:31 AM | Report abuse

Agreed, we need to win, Saturday, if not were a good frame of mind going into the break, then to help me see a winner. Live in St. Louis these days and will be going to the game. GO Caps.

Question for you guys..the same thing happened to Neuvirth,when he was called up for the first time, and i believe the comment by coach was that he needed to see some more "NHL" shots...would not the same apply for Varly? The guy has not played in over two months in the NHL, how can we be surprised or mad that he has a bad game in front a pourous defense?

Go Caps

Posted by: hunter32 | February 12, 2010 6:54 AM | Report abuse

I think the difference is that Neuvi was a Hershey callup whereas Varly was our number 1 goalie at the time of his injury. And he had played well since the season opened. Lots of bad play by lots of players last night but Varly was bad. And this may be his way of challenging Varly. All in all a rough night for the team. I almost hopes BB puts them through a really hard practice to work out all this sloppy play. I actually like Flash at center--faceoffs are just something he needs to develop. I still like the lines chemistry--worked for a month. They all have to get back to being responsible for each other again. They played bad pond hockey last night with moments of brilliance. Semin was erratically brilliant. Erratically sloppy defensively. And Ovi--stupid penalty. They all seemed tired and frustrated.

Posted by: Capsyoungguns | February 12, 2010 7:18 AM | Report abuse

Clearly long break coming at a perfect time for Caps.

Posted by: rockbroker | February 12, 2010 8:29 AM | Report abuse

Ouch. That is one unforgiving coach.

Posted by: MyPostIDisAfake | February 12, 2010 9:18 AM | Report abuse

I rarely feel that the Capitals should be slammed as much as they get but yeah, from what I've heard and read (in LA so I wouldn't be able to watch it if I wanted to), they deserved the tongue lashing they got from Boudreau and deserve a very hard practice before Saturday's game. It's a bit of a let-down. Congrats to our boy, CapsFan75! Sasha got a hat-trick! Nice!

Posted by: LeftCoastCapsFan | February 12, 2010 10:41 AM | Report abuse

First period Varly looked as bad as the team infront of him. He regained himself in the 2nd and made some nice saves and it continued a bit into the 3rd but there were indeed goals he should of stopped. I think its a stretch to say he was unprepared, he played 1 game in the AHL before playing an NHL game. Every player will tell you theres a world, a galaxy of difference between AHL shooters and NHL shooters.

Hopefully next game Varly will be more himself. His time in the Olympics should help him regain his composure, he may not play but practicing with the absolute cream of the crop should help

Posted by: breaklance | February 12, 2010 12:20 PM | Report abuse

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