The Capitals were forthright about their loss to the Islanders on Saturday. They initially jumped out and took control but then frittered away the game as they pushed for one more goal but instead turned over the puck, stopped relying on an aggressive forecheck and lost track of opponents in the defensive zone.

“We stopped doing what we were supposed to be doing anyway. First period we did an awful lot of good things and the second period we stopped doing exactly what we were doing in the first period,” Boudreau said. “I don’t know if they thought, ‘Okay, now we’re going to start going to get goals. We’re going to do a lot of these things that will make this become easy.’ But this league isn’t easy”.

Boudrea added of the defensive breakdowns in particular: “It’s a lot of things but we had lapses. We started to become a little bit individualistic and turnovers, turnovers kill you.”

The Capitals were outshot 23-16 in the second and third periods, New York forwards routinely got second chances against Tomas Vokoun on rebounds and were able to slip past the defense unnoticed.

Karl Alzner pointed out that the self-inflicted wounds Washington suffered against the Islanders were the same as some of the problems that cropped up in Edmonton and particularly in Vancouver. When the Capitals stray from their game plan it leads to sloppy, turnover-plagued games and easy pickings for an opponent’s transition game.

“You’ve got to learn by trial and error,” Alzner said. “Get enough of these when you start to feel pretty bad when you turn the puck over and other teams scores and it’s just kind of beaten into your head that you won’t do it anymore, and then after that hopefully have some more success.”

These are the kinds of habits that the Capitals want to try to correct as they move throughout the season. Lapses are bound to occur, but when Washington doesn’t go off script it’s much more apt to respond in a game – whether that means holding off an opponent or mounting a comeback of its own.

It was quite the contrast from Friday night in Carolina, where the Capitals played through a slow start by sticking to the program and wound up with a decisive win against a divisional rival. The reminder of what is possible, though, is why the Capitals didn’t go easy on themselves after the 5-3 loss to the Islanders.

“I think we deviated from our game plan a little bit, we don’t want to do that and they took advantage of it,” Matt Hendricks said. “It’s a learning curve but it’s that commitment to doing the same things all the time. When we get away from our game we’re as good as we can be. When you watch us play a solid 60 minutes, we’re getting pucks deep, we’re not turning pucks over, we have good games. And tonight we didn’t do that.”