While the Florida Panthers’ 4-2 win over the Capitals on Wednesday night gave them only a one-point lead for the top spot in the Southeast Division standings, this defeat speaks to larger concerns given the importance of the contest.

Washington was unexpectedly flat in a game that would have provided a slightly larger cushion over the Panthers. Instead, the loss knocked Washington into ninth place in the Eastern Conference.

“It’s frustrating,” Brooks Laich said. “This game could have been a catapult to shoot us off in the second half. Instead we’re back chasing again. The lack of success on the road, it’s not acceptable.”

The Capitals will play Florida three more times before the end of the season, including two more meetings in the next 16 days. That they squandered an opportunity to set a tone against a team they will be contending with for a playoff spot, though, was a source of the sour mood in the dressing room afterward.

“This was a huge game to put a little bit of separation and try put in the back of their minds that we can beat them especially on their ice,” Karl Alzner said. “But it didn’t go our way. We didn’t play good enough.”

Michal Neuvirth (34 saves) certainly didn’t have the greatest outing, and said he wishes he had the first goal – an 88-foot shot by Mikael Samuelsson – back. But this loss couldn’t be blamed on just one person, not when so many of the same problems keep popping up, particularly on the road where the Capitals are 8-14-3.

“It seems to be something different every night,” Laich said. “Whether it’s one night the power play doesn’t score, one night the penalty kill gives one up, or a mistake, a missed assignment. We’re just not getting it done. It has nothing to do with game plan or structure. It’s just a mistake here or there changes the game and we’re fighting from behind. We just have to be better. I’m sick and tired of losing on the road.”

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