Caps rue their missed chances

Coach Bruce Boudreau wants his Caps "paying the price to score."
Coach Bruce Boudreau wants his Caps "paying the price to score." (Toni L. Sandys)
By Gene Wang
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, December 6, 2010

Call it lethargy, a funk, a bout of misfortune or whatever other hard-luck account comes to mind. By any name, the Washington Capitals over the past two games just haven't been able to catch a break, and it's not as if they haven't had their moments. They've had plenty, in fact, to the tune of 84 shots, including a regulation season-high 46 in Saturday's 3-1 loss to the Atlanta Thrashers.

That's what makes these consecutive defeats all the more exasperating. Despite Washington sending the puck to the net frequently, the production that usually accompanies one of Coach Bruce Boudreau's prime directives has been in short supply.

Discontent was free-flowing in the locker room at Verizon Center following the most recent letdown, with players lamenting a second straight game in which a combination of intrepid goaltending and unfavorable bounces conspired against the reigning Presidents' Trophy winners, dropping them out of sole possession of first place in the Eastern Conference.

"You look at our team, and we haven't scored a lot of goals lately," Boudreau said, referring not only to Saturday's result but also a 2-1 loss to Dallas on Thursday. "I think it's the lack of commitment to paying the price to score. We're all wanting to score, but we're staying on the perimeter hoping to get the puck rather than being the guy that's going to the puck."

Even when players are being proactive in that regard, the results have been anything but encouraging. Right wing Eric Fehr, for instance, had multiple looks from close range against Thrashers goalie Ondrej Pavelec, only to have a breakaway and an ensuing rebound in the third period turned aside. Fehr, who had five shots against Atlanta, has not scored in seven consecutive games and has one goal over his past 14.

Defenseman Mike Green had six shots against the Thrashers, and he, too, went without a point, although Pavelec was especially sturdy in stopping 45 shots. Green is without a goal in his past eight games and has scored once in his past 12.

Left wing Jason Chimera, meantime, also took six shots without scoring.

Even when the Capitals have held a man advantage, the payoff has been minimal. Washington went 0 for 5 on the power play against Atlanta after converting 1 of 3 against the Stars.

"If you look at the power play, we'd have everybody just all in a circle looking to take one-timers, and then there was no second-shot capability," Boudreau said. "Usually when we've got the puck at the point, we have a guy going to the net, but we have options. [Against Atlanta], I was looking, and when they're getting the puck at the point, they were in the half wall. Everybody was just standing around hoping something was going to happen."

The recent scoring swoon provoked enough apprehension that Boudreau required a practice on Sunday morning rather than give the players a day to rest before facing Toronto on Monday at Verizon Center.

"We're getting chances," said Fehr, disregarding the suggestion that perhaps unsettled line combinations could be responsible for the lack of productivity. "It's not like we're not getting pucks to the net. At the end of the day, if guys are shooting pucks, it doesn't matter who your linemates are. You've got a good opportunity, you've got to try to bear down and put it in."

Capitals notes: Defenseman Tom Poti (groin) said he was optimistic that he might return to the Capitals' lineup against Toronto but that he needed to wait and see how he felt on Monday. . . .

Defenseman John Erskine, who missed Saturday's game against Atlanta, took part in practice and said he was ready to go.

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