Caps' Losing Skid Hits Three Games

By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Washington Capitals Coach Bruce Boudreau warned his players about taking the mediocre Edmonton Oilers lightly and looking ahead to tonight's anticipated matchup with the rival Pittsburgh Penguins.

But Boudreau's words fell on deaf ears.

The Capitals committed ghastly turnovers, took bad penalties, were outworked at both ends and suffered another humbling defeat, this one by the score of 5-2 to an Oilers team that didn't have its leading scorer and came to Washington 17 spots behind the Capitals in the league standings.

"When it gets to the point that everyone wants to be the scorer but no one wants to be the mucker, you're not going to do anything," Boudreau said. "They're lucky there's no practice tomorrow."

Erik Cole recorded a hat trick for the Oilers and goaltender Dwayne Roloson made 34 saves to help Edmonton win in Washington for the first time since 1997, a span of seven games.

The Capitals, meantime, lost their third in a row, matching their longest slide of the season. They also dropped their second straight at home after a nine-game winning streak at Verizon Center, where they have scored three goals to their opponents' nine over the last nine periods.

After losses to Columbus and Montreal last week, the Capitals could at least take solace in the fact that they played well for long stretches. That wasn't the case last night against the Oilers, who didn't have Ales Hemsky because of concussion and came in tied for last place in the Northwest Division.

When the doors to the Capitals' locker room were opened to reporters approximately five minutes after the game, the only player still there was backup goaltender Brent Johnson.

Alex Ovechkin later returned and took some of the blame for the performance, saying he and linemates Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Semin "tried to play too cute." Boudreau eventually replaced Semin with Viktor Kozlov.

"I think our line played terrible tonight," said Ovechkin, who finished without a point and has only one assist in his past four games. "We don't have traffic. Bruce tells us if you want to get goal you have to make traffic. We don't have traffic and I think that's key for our game."

Boudreau added, "When your best players aren't your best players, you're in trouble."

Washington's power play also continues to lack the effectiveness and efficiency that was its hallmark last month. There was too little traffic in front of Roloson and too many players loitering around the edges, hardly moving their feet. As a result, the unit finished 1 for 5 and is now 4 for 26 in the past six games.

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