Every player who spoke to reporters following the Capitals’ 4-2 loss in Buffalo knew exactly how quickly they fell behind Monday night. It wasn’t Jason Pominville’s goal but rather the careless delay-of-game penalty that presented the opportunity for that tally.
Just nine seconds into the game, veteran defenseman Roman Hamrlik shot the puck over the glass sending himself to the penalty box and putting Washington at an immediate disadvantage.
For the Capitals, who have struggled to get off to strong starts particularly on the road, it was a wrong step in trying to get back in a rhythm after the two-day holiday break. It set off a negative chain reaction for Washington as the Sabres cashed in on that power play then rode the momentum to four first-period goals.
“I think we have probably worst start in this year, get penalty they score good goal. After that they score another one and another one,” Alex Ovechkin said. “I don’t know what happened but that kind of goals kill us and kill your mentality.”
Not to mention that it isn’t what a team wants to see from Hamrlik, the most senior blue-liner who finished with 20:49 in ice time.
It also set a bad tone as the Capitals fell into their bad habits of not winning puck battles, not blocking shots, not making the little plays that help a team succeed.
“Less than 10 seconds into the game we’re in the penalty box and they capitalized on it,” Matt Hendricks said. “The common theme we saw in New Jersey and tonight is we can put pressure on when we decide to do it. I don’t think we came out with that mentality or that urgent desire to do those little things, getting pucks deep [and] finishing checks. Stuff that’s going to make their D turn the puck over.”
When asked how to teach a team to find a way to fight back before the game is out of hand at 4-0, Coach Dale Hunter brought up the poor decisions early on, including those that put the Capitals in the penalty box.
“It’s one of those things. They score power-play goals and [you’ve] got to stay out of the box and you have to come out better, make better decisions with the puck,” Hunter said. “I think we came out with energy but we made bad decisions. Bad decisions cost you goals and that’s what happened.”