Marcus Johansson loses the battle for the puck against Flyers center Danny Briere. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

Coach Dale Hunter has preached sound defense as the foundation for the team under his guidance, but in the 5-1 loss to the Flyers – particularly that middle stanza – Washington struggled mightily to adhere to the basic tenets of its defensive-zone coverage. The Capitals didn’t win races to pucks, lost battles in the corners and along the boards and once they were stuck chasing Philadelphia’s cycle, they couldn’t find a way to break it.

Flyers defensemen pinched and made it tough for Washington wingers to start the puck up ice. When the puck did leave the Capitals’ zone it was a brief reprieve as was evidenced by the 9 minutes and 48 second stretch they went without a shot against Ilya Bryzgalov in the middle of that period.

Veteran forward Jeff Halpern, who recorded Washington’s lone goal in the contest, said that it was those mistakes that doomed the Capitals into spending nearly an entire period in their own end.

“They’re a good team; you can’t give them free chances in your own end. As soon as a team has a puck on a cycle, you’re going to spend some time in your own end. Momentum’s going to shift, you’re going to spend more energy playing defense,” Halpern said. “We did a terrible job making an attempt to make plays to get the puck out, whatever it was -- not sprinting back to spots, not getting open for our partners, not getting into position and not making plays when we did.

“We turned it into a practice of our D-zone coverage and their cycles,” Halpern continued. “It wore the game down. They embarrassed us because of it.”