It’s been a long time since the Capitals looked as out of sorts for the duration of a game as they did Thursday night in a 3-1 loss at the Ottawa Senators.
Part of that was because they never gave themselves a chance to get started. A pair of penalties to Mike Ribeiro and Mike Green in the first 6:22 prevented Washington from getting its forward lines involved in the game early and put additional pressure on the defensemen.
“We got behind, two penalties, gave them some momentum and we never really dug ourselves out of that in the game,” Coach Adam Oates said. “We had a couple flurries at times but our execution was probably the worst we’ve had in a long time tonight.”
Alex Ovechkin, who only had one shot through the first 40 minutes of the contest, doesn’t kill penalties and admitted that the time spent on the bench early in the game made it difficult for him to get going.
“In that kind of position where they get power play right away, two power plays, they get momentum in the game and they have more, they involved in the game more than us,” said Ovechkin, who was held without a point for just the third time in 19 games. “We play four minutes on the PK right away in the first, our line don’t feel we in the game because of that kind of penalties. It’s hard to get in right away because we need better start, we have to control game then.”
Even after killing off both minors, the Capitals were stagnant. Ottawa’s playmaking possessed a crispness that they struggled to keep up with. The Capitals consistently gave up quality chances close in around the net, couldn’t execute a clean breakout and creating established offensive pressure in the first half of the game might as well have been a pipe dream.
“We came out flat and they were coming hard. It just seemed like nothing was working out for us,” Green said. We weren’t making tape-to-tape passes, we didn’t have much energy going and we just couldn’t create any momentum.”
Oates credited the Senators’ play only in part for his squad’s disorientation. Most of what went wrong for Washington, Oates made clear to point out, was self-inflicted damage.
“I still think it was our execution,” Oates said. “We didn’t put pucks on guys’ tape, we whiffed on shots, we weren’t smooth off draws. All those things end up adding up. You have a team that’s playing good over there, before you know it it’s hard, it’s tough sledding.
“We were just sloppy tonight. That’s the first time we’ve done that in a long time. We tried to get it going at times but I don’t think we sustained it enough.”
Winnipeg pulled to within two points of the Capitals and the Southeast Division lead with a 4-3 overtime win against Carolina Thursday night. With four games left, including a final matchup against the Jets on Tuesday, Washington must ensure this is a one-game blip.
“We’re not taking anything for granted,” Braden Holtby said. “We’ve been playing well lately, we’re going to continue to play that way through the last part of the season here. As long as we prepare the way we can and play the way we can, we’ll let the cards fall where they may and I believe we’ll be in a playoff spot if we do those things.”