Caps Sputter in West Coast Finale

By Reed S. Albers

Sadly, history does repeat itself. Even in hockey.

Nearly a year ago, the Washington Capitals suffered one of their worst home losses against the Los Angeles Kings in a Saturday matinee that ended 4-1. After Alex Ovechkin scored the opening goal just one minute into the game, the Capitals went flat and gave up four unanswered goals.

Now fast forward to Monday’s road game against the Kings following a particularly disappointing 5-2 loss to the San Jose Sharks Saturday.

Washington once again set the tone with a quick first minute goal – only this time it was Marcus Johansson who notched the tally – but allowed four unanswered goals to the Kings.

And that was the score at the end of the second period.

Kyle Clifford, Anze Kopitar, Jack Johnson and Jarret Stoll scored the first four for the Kings and Justin Williams wristed in a power play goal in the third for a 5-2 win over the Caps.

The two games don’t share identical scores, but you could argue they were identical efforts.

The Caps goaltending was suspect, the offense couldn’t maintain constant attacks and defenders might be surprised to know that yes, they did in fact have defensive assignments.

So ends another disappointing West Coast road trip. Washington is now 7-12-1 on the road. It’s not the NHL’s worst, but for a team aspiring to playoff success, it’s not an encouraging sign.

The Caps missed a major opportunity to maintain momentum on this West Coast swing and are now on a new kind of streak, one that’s a bit more familiar to the squad this season than year’s past:  a losing streak.

And it couldn’t come at a worse time.

Washington’s West Coast road trip was particularly important because for the first time since the start of the season, the Caps were cradling a long winning streak that included point scoring streaks by the team’s stars.

They were also crawling back up the Southeast Division standings, but instead of gaining ground on the Winnipeg Jets and Florida Panthers, who have both struggled to create any considerable space whilst the Caps have sputtered, the team is stuck in third.

A win streak needs to start up again. And fast.

It’s never too early to worry about points and with the Southeast Division’s No. 1 slot not too far away, points earned now will pay off.

Fortunately, a chance has presented itself. The team faces a lightning round of hockey in the coming week with six games in 10 days.

Among the clubs they’ll face is a Pittsburgh Penguins team without Sidney Crosby, James Neal, and Jordan Staal. There are divisional match-ups with the Tampa Bay Lightning and Carolina Hurricanes. Then there’s the basement-dwelling New York Islanders and Montreal Canadiens, followed by a second date with the Hurricanes.

It’s a busy week filled with non-playoff opponents and one rival team that’s just a few injuries away from changing their jerseys to that of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.

Whether or not the Caps take advantage of this opportunity is up to them.

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