There's still a power shortage at Capital Centre.
In a dismal showing against Toronto Thursday night, the Washington Capitals were zero for five in man-advantage situations. After the 3-1 loss to the Maple Leafs, Coach Bryan Murray, who has spent months trying to resolve the situation, looked puzzled and said, "I really don't know (what's wrong).
"We go on the road and we get maybe three (goals) in eight or nine chances," said Murray, whose team will play the Blues in St. Louis tonight. "But then we come into our building and the guys start pressing and nothing happens."
Murray suggested the home crowd may have some effect. "The guys are pressing because they want to do well, and when it doesn't work, the fans start booing," he said. "That's not a real excuse, but I use the booing as a bit of an example. We get the pressure (at home) and we haven't responded.
"You see that with any team at home. Even the Stastnys in Quebec were doing the same things our guys were doing (in Washington's victory over the Nordiques last Sunday) and their fans were upset because they couldn't do anything."
Washington's power-play percentage, which has slipped to just under 20 percent overall, is 21 for 88 on the road and 20 for 113 in chances at Capital Centre.
Against Quebec Sunday, the Capitals made good on two of four power plays. In Detroit two nights later, they were one for five.
Murray said the overall power-play percentage in the league is lower at home because "on the road, teams are not there to put on a show; they're trying to play more aggressive hockey."
Craig Laughlin, one of the few Capitals willing to discuss the situation, said, "We take a lot for granted at home. On the road, the power play really looks a lot better, maybe because on the road we are playing as a team unit."
Pressure to perform well at home, subconscious or otherwise, Laughlin said, has players "playing as individuals, trying to do it all.
"It's as if we think we have to impress the people in Washington by doing the fancy stuff," he said. "Everybody wants so much to look pretty for the people here, that we get away from what we've done on the road."
Murray spends a considerable part of each day's practice with the power-play unit, and has said it is a matter of bringing practice details into games.
"I guess you just keep working at it," he said. "One thing I've stressed, and they know, is that on a power play you cannot go through the box (opposition's four men) unless you can break it down first by two or three passes. We did not do that against Toronto."
The Capitals' concern with their power play, which has lagged since training camp, is more than justified: the season is half over and playoff talk is more than idle chatter.
"Down the stretch, it (the power play) is going to tell the tale," Laughlin said. "The good teams get tough at home in the second half. With the kind of talent we have, our power play should be operating at at least 30 percent. But we're so anxious to make something happen, so hyper with the puck, we flub it too many times."