There are few occasions where one would imagine that the Washington Capitals, who have owned one of the top two power plays in the NHL each of the past two seasons, would go 0 for 8 in a single contest. But that's exactly what happened Thursday and it was a significant reason why the Panthers were able to walk away from Verizon Center with a 3-0 win.
Washington dropped its fourth straight, its longest losing-streak of the season. Granted, Florida entered this contest with the 11th best penalty kill in the league and has now thwarted 84.8 percent (73 of 86) of opposing power plays, but the Capitals were getting good chances early.
When those initial opportunities didn't find their way across the goal line, the Capitals' frustration showed in the way of many players tried to shoulder the burden of scoring a power-play goal alone.
"The intentions were good at the beginning," Coach Bruce Boudreau said. "Then when you don't score on the power play when you have the opportunity -- you could see at the end of the first period that we started to do things as individuals instead of collectively. When that happens it's tough, but it's no excuse."
Mike Knuble suggested that the Capitals were never comfortable with the simple, tight-checking game that the Panthers were playing and that compounded with their ineptitude on the power play. Washington's offense didn't look much better at even strength either, though, and it was hard to find an area that wasn't frustrating for the Capitals.
"It kind of comes with not being comfortable playing in tight games and getting antsy and that's how it's going to be," Knuble said of the off-kilter offense. "We've been doing teams a lot of favors lately, letting them pull out of slumps and helping teams feel good about themselves and it's getting, frankly, pretty tiring. We're supposed to be a top team and we're letting teams come in and feel good about themselves."
--This was just the third time this season the Capitals have had more than five power-play chances in a game. Both other times were against the Flyers, and Washington scored at least twice in both games, going 2 for 6 on Nov. 7 and 3 for 7 on Nov. 20.
--Michael Frolik's goal with one second remaining in the second period all but erased the memory of the Capitals' penalty kill -- including 1:18 of a five-on-three -- in the waning minutes of that frame.
Semyon Varlamov made six saves during that penalty kill and the Capitals, without Scott Hannan and John Erskine, managed to use diving poke checks or break up passes to prevent more. Washington killed five of six penalties against the Panthers and is 26 for 29 (89.7 percent) in the past seven games.
--Boudreau singled out all of the Capitals' main offensive weapons by name: Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Alexander Semin, Mike Green and usual secondary contributors Brooks Laich and Knuble.
None of those six players has more than two points during this four-game losing streak and several have scoring slumps going much further back than Dec. 2 against Dallas. I'll have more on that tomorrow.
"My thoughts were our top six forwards weren't very good," Boudreau said. "Quite frankly, if your best players aren't your best players... you're not going to have success....You have to get production out of your best players and it's not happening right now."
The Capitals are scheduled to practice at 11 a.m. at KCI, where Boudreau said they will spend some time working on the power play among other things.