If there was a moment in the second period where the Capitals seemed most able to claw their way back from a large deficit, it was after Alex Ovechkin fought Brandon Dubinsky. Little more galvanizes a team as much as seeing its captain and most valuable player frustrated and emotional to start throwing punches, but instead the Rangers scored while short-handed 1 minute 9 seconds later and there would be no comeback at the Garden.
Washington's 7-0 defeat at the hands of the Rangers on Sunday night makes this the Capitals' first six-game losing streak since March 2007, at the end of the final full season of Glen Hanlon's time as head coach.
They haven't lost by seven goals since 2005-06, when it occurred three times in 8-1 losses to Pittsburgh, Atlanta and Philadelphia. But if you're looking for a mildly positive note out of this one, the last time the Capitals gave up seven goals was a 7-4 loss to Tampa Bay on Jan. 12 -- a defeat they followed with a 14-game winning streak.
"I'm just mad because we lost a game like that, 7-0," Ovechkin said. "We have to group together. We don't have to say this guy played bad or made mistakes. We all make mistakes, it's a lot of mistakes. We have to keep together as a team and as a group, we haven't had this kind of situation in a long time. It's something new for us - good teams find wins."
This is a slump unlike anything the Capitals, as currently constructed or under Bruce Boudreau, have ever experienced although quite a few players spent time on the team in 2006-07 -- the last time Washington suffered six straight losses. But even so, that wasn't a season that carried the expectation of a lengthy playoff run.
On to other notes from the Caps' loss in New York:
--Boudreau said he thought about pulling Semyon Varlamov, who finished with 13 saves, but ultimately had no choice but to leave him in goal at the Garden. Michal Neuvirth got sick before the game and wasn't able to play.
"We didn't have time to pull anybody up and he couldn't go in," Boudreau said. "We asked [Neuvirth]; he was barely on the bench, so that's what happened."
--Ovechkin said he was fine after a shot by Alexander Semin hit him in the right knee in the third period. With things out of hand by midway through the third period, Boudreau didn't play Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom or Alexander Semin for the remainder of the contest. After Jason Chimera and Brandon Prust were each given game misconduct penalties, Boudreau used only the third and fourth lines.
"I thought Nicky and Alex and those guys played hard," Boudreau said. "But I wasn't going to embarrass them any more by putting them on there."
--While it's hard to single out any one player too much in a 7-0 loss, Scott Hannan did not have a good game tonight and is a minus-6 in the last three contests. He's a minus-7 in six games with the Caps since the trade.
--Those of us on press row counted at least four shots that hit the post or crossbar behind Henrik Lundqvist, though there may have been more, and a flurry of them came during that crucial time during the middle of the second period prior to the Rangers' fifth goal.
"I don't know what to say," Ovechkin said. "We tried. We don't want to lose, we want to win and I think it just you know, we don't have luck. You can see how many posts we hit. We still have chances we just can't score."