The Washington Capitals' two-game road trip to nowhere concluded tonight with a 5-2 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs, who ended a seven-game losing streak.
Only one NHL team can compare to Toronto in futility -- the Detroit club that crushed the Capitals Tuesday, 7-0.
The consecutive nights of noneffort prompted Washington Coach Bryan Murray to call a team meeting for Friday.
"Some people here are going to step forward or we'll have recommendations the other way," Murray said. "I want them to tell me why they're not going well. I have lots of ideas, but I prefer to keep them to myself for now.
"We play a tremendous game in Minnesota and then we don't show up in Detroit or here against teams that gave us chances to do things. Playing those three games and then New Jersey (Saturday at Capital Centre), we had a chance for eight points if we'd shown any intensity."
To their varied sins of the previous night, the Capitals added inept goaltending, as Al Jensen botched a couple of routine shots in the first period. Jensen took full blame for his atypical performance, but Murray refused to add his criticism.
"I was going to take Al out after one period, with those two bad goals, but I had a talk with him instead," Murray said. "He's been so good, there have got to be some nights where the goaltender doesn't make every stop and we can pull one out for him."
Murray and assistant Ron Lapointe tried every possible motivational tool tonight. Murray completely revamped his lines, but went back to the old alignment after the first period because nothing developed. Lapointe got himself embroiled in a verbal dispute with a fan, vainly hoping it might inspire the players.
The Capitals took an early lead on Alan Haworth's power-play goal, his 25th of the season, a career high. Overlapping penalties to Toronto's Gary Nylund and Borje Salming gave Washington a two-man advantage for 99 seconds; the Capitals needed 100 and five shots before Haworth beat Don Edwards.
Jensen, starting his third straight game because of Pete Peeters' pulled stomach muscle, allowed routine shots by Peter Ihnacak and Wendel Clark to skip off his glove into the net. Then, in the final minute of the first period, Walt Poddubny scored on a power-play rebound for a 3-1 margin.
"I just misplayed them," Jensen said of the first two goals. "Both of them went off my glove. I can't explain it."
Early in the second period, Jensen took a shot from Russ Courtnall on the chin. His stick flew in the air and he fell flat, but after treatment he was able to continue.
"I knew it was high, but I never saw it," Jensen said. "I was coming out to challenge him and I couldn't react."
Late in the period, some superb playmaking by Mike Gartner and Bob Carpenter left Gartner alone in front, but as he prepared to shoot, Edwards dove out and knocked the puck off his stick.
"I went to pull it past him and all I had to do was lift it over his stick, but he got it out awfully quick," Gartner said.
Gartner, who had eight shots on goal, did score his 27th goal on a power play midway through the second period, but Tom Fergus quickly got it back on a rebound of his own shot.
"That really hurt," Murray said. "We gave Fergus two chances at the puck and nobody was within 10 feet of him."
Jensen made several outstanding saves in the third period, as the Capitals gambled in a bid to close the gap. But Courtnall finally put it away with 4:18 remaining on a drive from the left-wing circle.
Scott Stevens dove to block a third-period shot by Salming and the puck struck him on the left side of the face. After treatment, Stevens did not miss a shift, but he figures to be in considerable pain Thursday.
"It hit my left ear and jaw," Stevens said. "It's bruised inside and out."
Much of the third period deteriorated into brawling. After one incident between Toronto's Rick Vaive and Lou Franceschetti, Vaive accused Murray of sending Franceschetti out to get him.
Toronto's victory possibly saved Coach Dan Maloney's job. With owner Harold Ballard due for prostate surgery Friday, the result injected a little light into a struggling organization.
Maloney's fiery postgame comments brought a smile, too.
"We didn't get where we are today by quitting," Maloney said.
With a 13-31-5 record, they are going nowhere. The Capitals have no desire to join them.
The Capitals recalled goaltender Bob Mason from Binghamton of the American Hockey League, as an emergency replacement for Peeters.
At the same time, right wing Ed Kastelic, who was demoted by the Capitals recently, confirmed that he would attend York University here, rather than return to Binghamton. Kastelic played 15 games with the Capitals, recording no points and 73 penalty minutes.
Mason might start against New Jersey at Capital Centre Saturday or at Hartford Sunday.
Mason, 24, posted an 8-2-1 record with a 2.81 goals-against average last season with Washington.