Winless Caps Search for Answers

What started with one of the best periods of hockey Washington has played so far this season ended with the Capitals suffering a 4-1 drubbing at the hands of the Montreal Canadiens.

Special teams sank the Caps, as Montreal opened the scoring with two fast power play goals in the second period and managed to shut down all four of the home team’s power play chances during the game.

According to some Caps and their coach, however, the dismal 0-3 start to the year can’t be explained away by a struggling penalty kill.

“I would say some of our mistakes are pure effort,” Washington Head Coach Adam Oates said. “It’s very upsetting. I’m not pushing the panic button, but obviously it’s upsetting. We’re pros, you’ve got to be a pro, and you’ve got to do your job.”

Capitals forward Troy Brouwer, whose delay of game penalty in the second period led to the Habs’ first goal, was less diplomatic when talking about his team’s collective effort this year.

“Matt Hendricks showed up tonight, that was about it,” he said. “Embarrassing is almost the right term right now; pathetic is probably a better one.“

While the Capitals have more problems than one right now – Brouwer noted that they are playing sloppily, turning over pucks and taking too many penalties – he did not shy away from pointing out what he thinks is his team’s biggest problem.

“If I had to say one thing (that is wrong), I’d say work ethic,” he said. “We’re not out of shape. That’s an excuse right now.”

Another excuse the Capitals aren’t using is that they are having trouble adjusting to their new coach.

“I think obviously if we were playing the system perfectly, we’d have a different record right now,” Caps’ defenseman Karl Alzner said.  “I don’t think the system’s the problem. I think it’s just us not playing it the way it should be.”

Montreal’s second-period onslaught began when the Caps found themselves down by two men early in the second period. Brouwer took a delay of  game penalty just 25 seconds after Washington captain Alexander Ovechkin was called for interference. The Capitals nearly killed the entire 5-on-3 power play, until Andrei Markov corralled the puck in the slot and fed Tomas Plekanec in the right circle. Plekanec fired a shot past Michal Neuvirth for his second goal of the season.

A questionable goalie interference call on Matt Hendricks allowed Markov to pick up his second power play point of the night when a wild rebound bounced directly to him at the bottom of the left circle.

Midway through the second period the Capitals seemed to be gaining some momentum after an  energetic – and likely very tiring – shift in the Habs zone where Montreal goaltender Carey Price made a series of clutch saves. But the Canadiens quickly took advantage of a drained Washington unit and scored their third goal off of the rush. Streaking down the left side of the ice, Rene Bourque found Brian Gionta in the slot from behind the goal line. Gionta slipped his second goal of the season through Neuvirth’s pads.

Josh Gorges sent a blast from the point past Neuvirth for his first goal of the season and the Canadiens fourth goal of the game.

Joey Crabb scored late in the third period to spoil Price’s shutout, but the effort came far too late.

Without a win in this truncated season, the Caps still aren’t ready to panic. That being said, a 48-game schedule against only conference opponents doesn’t leave much room for error.

“We’ve got to turn something around and we’ve got to do it fast,” Brouwer said.

Luckily for the Caps, they won’t have much time to stew over this loss as they travel to New Jersey tomorrow to face the Atlantic Division-leading Devils.

“Tomorrow has to be a much better game for us,” Ovechkin said. “We have to fight through.”

Three Stars

  1. MTL, Carey Price
  2. MTL, Andrei Markov
  3. MTL, Max Pacioretty

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