Following the loss in Nashville Sunday night, Troy Brouwer was asked what was missing from the Capitals’ play over the past week to make them go from riding a high during their California trip to losing three straight.
“It’s desperation, I think,” Brouwer said. “We’re desperately fighting for a playoff spot and at times our desperation isn’t there on the ice. When we let up a little bit teams are coming hard that’s when they’re getting their opportunities.”
Washington’s opponent Tuesday knows plenty about desperation. The Dallas Stars are in the exact same position in the Western Conference as the Capitals are in the East – they sit one point out of a playoff spot and are frantically trying to catch the Phoenix Coyotes.
The main difference, though, is that the Stars have won four of their past five games and their last victory was a 4-2 triumph over the Western Conference-leading Blues in St. Louis. Dallas also hung seven goals on the same Predators who beat the Capitals, 4-3, in a shootout Sunday. It’s a safe bet that Dallas will be looking to continue rolling as they continue their road trip and the Capitals need to find a way to end their current three-game losing streak if they hope to keep pace in the East.
“Game is better when both teams try to win,” Mikhail Grabovski said. “I like play against [teams] when they have same situation when both teams [need] to make the points. Just great opportunity to move forward in this game.”
Said Coach Adam Oates: “We talked about they’re in the same position as us. It’s a desperate game; it’s a must-win tonight for both teams, they’ve been playing much better hockey lately….I can’t think of any way you wouldn’t be up for the game.”
Three other teams in the East’s wild card chase are also playing Tuesday night. Columbus, which currently holds the second wild card with 82 points, hosts Colorado at 7 p.m. The New Jersey Devils, who are two points behind the Capitals and own the first tiebreaker, visit Buffalo at 7 p.m. And the free-falling Maple Leafs, who are one behind Washington in the standings, host the Calgary Flames at 7 p.m.
Washington can’t afford to rely on help from the out-of-town scoreboard and they can’t excuse another sluggish start after a back-to-back games this weekend that saw them chase their opponent for much of the game.
For the Capitals to dictate their own game from the start, they need to be concerned about themselves and not their opponents in these final seven games Joel Ward said.
“Regardless who we’re playing there’s no easy games. We played against a Nashville team that played hard and they’re out of [the playoff race],” Ward said. “We’ve got to worry about ourselves and not so much about who we’re playing against. We went out to California we worried about ourselves and executed our own game plan and it seemed to work out for us.”