The Washington Capitals received the affectionate “Cardiac Caps” nickname for their zest for the dramatic, usually when it came to late-game heroics. This season, however, the Caps have been the catalysts of thousands of cases of cardiac arrest.
Despite securing a 3-2 shootout victory for the second consecutive game Saturday against the Montreal Canadiens, Washington also blew a two-goal lead for the second consecutive game. In fact, the Caps have blown a two-goal or more lead in three of its last five games (March 23 against the Winnipeg Jets, Thursday against the Boston Bruins and Saturday).
While most of the players said after the game that they were satisfied with the victory considering the tight playoff race that they are currently mired in, blowing leads – especially because the Caps are currently mired in a tight playoff race – is a cause for concern. Against Montreal, Washington once again retreated into a passive shell after jumping out to a 2-0 lead early in the first period.
“We sat back too much,” head coach Dale Hunter said. “If you get too careful, you play into their hands. We turned the puck over too much in the neural zone, too many drop passes.”
Hunter’s defensive system calls for the Caps to relent once they have a lead, but easing up has caused them many problems throughout the season. The Caps are 2-0-1 in the three games that they have blown a lead and have earned much-needed points, but in the postseason, there are no points to earn and multi-goal leads are hard to come by.
“That’s three games in the last week to 10 days that we’ve done that,” Mike Knuble said. “Tonight, we took our foot off the gas. First period, I thought we were great. I think we played 19 really, really good minutes in the first period and played like we were coming to take the game away with them. We just let them back into it in that last minute. Those are little things that you just don’t want to see your team doing.”