By Katie Carrera
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, December 12, 2010; 11:42 PM
NEW YORK - To see Alex Ovechkin throwing punches at New York Rangers forward Brandon Dubinsky midway through the second period at Madison Square Garden was to see the Washington Capitals' frustration personified. Washington trailed by four goals when its captain got involved in the fight, but not even the boost from Ovechkin's anger could prevent the Capitals' losing streak from adding another chapter.
Washington fell, 7-0, to the Rangers on Sunday at Madison Square Garden, a defeat that marks the first time since March 2007 that the Capitals have lost six consecutive games. It is the fourth time the defending Presidents' Trophy winners have been shut out in the past 13 games. Washington is 4-7-2 during that span.
"I'm just mad because we lost a game like that, 7-0," said Ovechkin, who said he was okay after taking a shot off his right knee in the third period. "We have to group together. We don't have to say this guy played bad or made mistakes. We all make mistakes, it's a lot of mistakes. We have to keep together as a team and as a group, we haven't had this kind of situation in a long time. It's something new for us - good teams find wins."
Likely the worst loss of Coach Bruce Boudreau's tenure - and the team's first seven-goal loss since the 2005-06 season - didn't start out that way. Washington put forth a solid first period and finished it trailing 1-0 after a late, fluky shot by Brandon Prust that deflected into the net off Tom Poti's skate. But things began to unravel in the first five minutes of the second period, as the Rangers rattled off three goals in 3 minutes 31 seconds.
Fifty-nine seconds into the second frame, Artem Anisimov ripped a shot between Scott Hannan's legs and over goaltender Semyon Varlamov's glove. Before the Capitals responded, Marian Gaborik made it 3-0 when he tipped a shot by Marc Staal on a power play just more than three minutes into the period.
"It seems like we lost focus for about two minutes and they got two goals on us and it made the game a lot tougher," right wing Eric Fehr said. "We had a great first period and didn't come out ready in the second and it cost us."
Dubinsky added a fourth tally when he shot through Brian Fahey at the end of a play that resulted from a turnover at the offensive blue line by Ovechkin, who headed to the bench immediately after giving the puck away.
At that point, fights by Matt Hendricks (with Michael Sauer) or Ovechkin might have been a rallying cry for the Capitals, but they couldn't give themselves enough time to regroup. Furthermore, four times their shots hit the post or crossbar behind New York goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who finished with 31 saves.
Staal made it 5-0 when he scored on a short-handed two-on-one, the product of a turnover when Alexander Semin pinched deep in the offensive zone while on the power play, slightly more than a minute after Ovechkin's fight.
"When you've lost, now six in a row, you get behind and you get deflated," Boudreau said. "So when they scored a couple quick goals and when you're not scoring as a group then you're going, 'Oh, geez, what kind of mountain is this going to be to climb?' And it gets more difficult, but that's where you have to have resolve. That's where you have to be defiant and not let it happen."
More significant than the rarity of such a crushing defeat, one that left Boudreau soft-spoken and searching for the correct words afterward, is that the Capitals' players have hardly experienced disappointments and failures this regularly over any stretch in either of the past two regular seasons.
With only one game in the next five days - Wednesday against visiting Anaehim - the Capitals' biggest challenge will be to correct the problems that have plagued them during this losing streak and regain the confidence that wasn't there to bail them out against the Rangers.
"I think we just have to relax," Ovechkin said when asked how the Capitals can pull themselves out of the slump. "I know it's huge pressure for us right now. We've lost how many games in a row? I think it's big pressure for players, for coaches, for trainers but we just have to relax and not think about the losing streak. We have to think about the win."
Capitals notes: Washington recalled right wing Andrew Gordon from Hershey. He played 12 minutes 10 seconds against the Rangers and finished with a minus-2 rating. To make room for Gordon on the roster, the Capitals placed D.J. King on injured reserve. King won't be eligible to return to the lineup until Saturday against Boston. . . . Mike Green missed his second straight game.