By Adam Vingan
- The Washington Capitals started the season with 43 consecutive games with at least one goal, the second-longest streak since they went the entire 80-game schedule without being shutout in both the 1990-91 and 1991-92 seasons.
- The Caps had not trailed at home since December 13 against the Philadelphia Flyers, a span of seven games.
- Washington was 5-0-1 in its last six games at home against the New York Islanders, with the latter’s last regulation win at Verizon Center coming over four years ago (October 18, 2007).
- The Caps were in the midst of a seven-game home winning streak.
- The Caps’ penalty kill had not allowed more than one power play goal in a game since December 26, a span of nine games.
What do all of these statistics have in common? After Tuesday’s 3-0 loss to the Islanders, none of them exist anymore.
An inspiring three-game winning streak within the last week gave way to arguably the Caps’ worst loss of the season. Against the Tampa Bay Lightning Friday and the Carolina Hurricanes Sunday, Washington struggled to close out tight games, but those struggles were masked by victories. There was nothing to hide behind Tuesday as the lowly Islanders, barely 24 hours removed from a 3-1 loss to the Nashville Predators, took advantage of the Caps’ lackadaisical play at both ends of the ice.
“I thought we were skating well early, but so were they,” head coach Dale Hunter said. “It’s just mistakes and it’s costing us. People are getting beat. The video won’t lie.”
Tomas Vokoun was beat three times Tuesday, but he played a solid game when considering the help – or lack thereof – that he received. The penalty kill was porous, the offense could not muster any momentum and Dmitry Orlov should receive a secondary assist for his turnover that ultimately led to the first of P.A. Parenteau’s two goals.
Part of the problem Tuesday can be explained in one word, a word that has haunted Washington for the better part of four years: cute.
“We were a little bit too cute around the net,” Hunter said. “A few of the guys were trying to make the third pass and they were just sliding all over the place and blocking them so we definitely have to get more pucks to the net. The play’s there [or] the play’s not. You’ve got to read the circumstance. [If] the guy’s laying down, there’s not a pass there. You’ve got to throw it on net and hope for a rebound.”
Three consecutive wins at Verizon Center brought back some semblance of optimism, albeit cautious, to the Verizon Center faithful, but those same faithful voiced their displeasure with the Caps’ sluggish play Tuesday, booing throughout the game.
“It’s frustrating,” Karl Alzner said. “We didn’t play a very good game, very smart game. That was a tough loss for us. It kind of felt like it was a road game, getting booed and stuff. It’s not very fun for us. It’s never good. One hundred percent [of the boos] were deserved.”
With the homestand over, Alzner and the Caps will truly feel what it is like to play on the road; the first of three consecutive road games begins Wednesday against the Montreal Canadiens. Not only that, but they will face the same scenario that their last four opponents have: playing in the second game of a back-to-back set against a rested team. With the way Washington has underperformed on the road, playing Wednesday is a double-edged sword. Will they be able to shake off a rough game right away? Or will their road woes return?
“It’s a chance to get right back at it,” Brooks Laich said. “Same with what [the Islanders] went through. They played last night and lost and came in here a hungry team. For us, we will get on the plane tonight, travel [to Montreal] and get back at it tomorrow.”