The Capitals dropped to 4-5 under Hunter, have split their past six contests and have been unable to win more than two games in a row since they opened the season 7-0. While the matchup against the Avalanche was a sloppy outing by both sides, Washington barely showed hints of the composure that helped it obtain a victory two nights earlier in Winnipeg.
They made the same mistakes that have plagued them when they’ve struggled this season — failing to chip pucks in and establish a forecheck offensively, not clearing the puck out of their own end and improvising rather than playing within the system. It was a one-goal game entering the third period, but the Capitals (16-14-1) had little fight as Colorado (15-17-1) hemmed them in their own zone to squeeze the final 20 minutes out of the game.
“I think a lot of times we were doing things on our own. That’s what we were doing when we were losing a lot of our games and we got back to it again tonight,” defenseman Karl Alzner said. “We didn’t have a good enough answer for them in the third. Those are the times we try and tell each other, ‘Just keep it simple,’ and then for whatever reason we go out there and we don’t do it.
“That’s the main thing, when you look at everything in trying to get off this rollercoaster ride is always doing the same thing – we’ve got to be methodical and work hard,” Alzner continued. “You see the teams that do that are usually successful and that’s what we’re not doing enough of.”
Michal Neuvirth finished with 26 saves but didn’t look nearly as comfortable as he did when he pitched his first shutout of the year against the Jets on Thursday.
A strange shot just 2 minutes 49 seconds into the game appeared to catch Neuvirth off guard and gave the Avalanche a 1-0 lead. Cody McLeod’s attempt from the blue line floated into the zone, over the goaltender’s left shoulder and into the net. Neuvirth told reporters after the contest that it was a “horrible” goal and that he lost sight of the puck when it was in midair.
After allowing the early goal, Neuvirth started to bounce back but he didn’t possess his usual efficiency in net when making even routine saves.
“I think the puck was bouncing all over the place tonight and I don’t think it was just me,” Neuvirth said. “It’s not easy when you let that bad goal early in the game, but I thought I bounced back. It’s tough. It’s a disappointing loss but it’s tough to win when we score just one goal.”
In the other end, Washington opposed veteran Jean-Sebastien Giguere (25 saves) and did not get a chance to face its former first-round draft pick Semyon Varlamov, who was out with what Colorado Coach Joe Sacco called a “minor back injury”.