Caps Go From Bad to Worse

The Thrashers' Eric Perrin celebrates his goal as the puck settles in the net behind Capitals goalie Olie Kolzig.
The Thrashers' Eric Perrin celebrates his goal as the puck settles in the net behind Capitals goalie Olie Kolzig. (Richard A. Lipski - The Washington Post)
By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 22, 2007

The frustration that has come to define the Washington Capitals' season only intensified last night on the bench and in the seats at Verizon Center, where the streaking Atlanta Thrashers cruised to an all-too-easy 5-1 victory.

After a promising start, the Capitals again buckled under the strain of a historic slump as the Ilya Kovalchuk-led Thrashers scored five unanswered goals.

The fans who showed up let the home team have it during an erratic second period, then again in the third. Who could blame them? The chants of "Fire Hanlon" also seemed to be louder and more intense than in Monday's 4-3 loss to the Florida Panthers.

The Capitals' players, meantime, spoke in hushed tones and broken thoughts, as they struggled to put into words the disappointment of yet another defeat in a long line of losses that have crushed the team's confidence and perhaps extinguished its playoff aspirations.

For those still keeping track, the defeat was the Capitals' fifth straight, ninth in 10 games and eighth in 10 games at home. Their 13 points not only are the fewest in the league, it's the franchise's lowest total after 21 games in 26 years.

"It's tough," Coach Glen Hanlon said. "Sports is really tough when these situations happen. That's why we've played so well in first periods, because we've had time to regroup for a couple of days, get away. You come in with renewed enthusiasm and you believe this is the night where it's going to happen."

"When something goes wrong," he added, "you revert back and think back on negative things."

Hanlon added that it's the worst stretch he has experienced in his career, both as a coach and a player.

"For spurts, we were intense, we were on pucks, we were battling," captain Chris Clark said. "We let down, they score. It happens every time. We turn over, they score."

Asked about the boos and jeers, Clark said: "If we were in a different city, there would be a lot more pressure. It could be a lot worse than it is right now."

General Manager George McPhee declined to comment when asked to address his team's woes.

Early on this season, the Capitals' biggest problems were injuries and the inability to score. The past few games, though, it has been that inability to score plus a laundry list of other issues, from players taking overlong shifts to poorly executed line changes and turnovers. Don't forget the ever-present problems on special teams. (Last night, their only goal came on the power play, but two of the Thrashers' strikes, including the game winner, also came with the man advantage.)

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