The Capitals entered Friday night’s game against the Canadiens knowing that the sloppy passing and neutral and defensive zone turnovers that marked their loss against Pittsburgh could not continue. They also acknowledged that they could not take too many penalties and had to stop allowing so many shots on goal.
None of those areas improved, however, and the Caps lost to the Habs 3-2, dropping their second game in a row and getting outshot 31-27 in the process.
For the 20th time in 23 games this season, Washington allowed at least 30 shots. In addition, the Caps attempted 22 shots that missed the net.
While Washington encountered some frustrating moments in the first period, including a Montreal goal that possibly should have been disallowed due to a high stick, a clearly agitated Adam Oates wasn’t upset about officiating after the game.
“You make mistakes in the league, you get burned,” Oates said. “There’s no other way to cut it.”
The Caps head coach, who is usually never emotive whether the Capitals win or lose, is also angry that his team keeps making the same errors in execution.
“Tomorrow morning, the video, I will show the same stuff – I know it,” Oates said, noting that after the game he was particularly upset with some of his veteran players.
Oates went on to say that he wasn’t particularly impressed that Washington improved in the final two periods of the game.
“Yeah, we made a great push at the end,” he said. “(For) 40 minutes we used a lot of energy that we probably need tomorrow. That’s the frustrating part – all we did to make the push was play correct.”
Washington forward Martin Erat echoed his coach’s sentiments.
“It’s unacceptable,” Erat said, clearly exasperated. “You can’t come to a game and start like this.”
The poor start to the game against the Habs was especially difficult to overcome because of Montreal goalie Peter Budaj’s strong performance in net.
The Caps won’t have much time to dwell on the loss as they travel to Toronto tomorrow night to play the Maple Leafs.
“Another tough team, in a tough building, with travel here,” Washington forward Troy Brouwer said. “So guys are going to have to show up, put their character on the line here and see what’s inside of us. We need to have a good start…we’re losing ground on our division and we can’t against these teams.”
Mikhail Grabovski’s neutral zone turnover resulted in the Habs first goal of the night when Ryan White stripped the puck from the Capitals forward. Michael Bournival picked up the play and dished it to Travis Moen, who fired a wrist shot past Michal Neuvirth at 8:53 of the first period.
The Canadiens went up by two when David Desharnais tipped a shot from the point past Neuvirth with what appeared to be a high stick. A goal review proved inconclusive, so the ruling on the ice stood.
Still, Oates noted that the play leading up to the goal was not caused by an officiating error.
“It’s a faceoff goal, from a shot from the point that we talk about every single day,” he said. “And we made mistakes on coverage.”
The Caps luck didn’t improve as a Canadien dove into his own goaltender, somehow resulting in a roughing call on Martin Erat against Peter Budaj. Daniel Briere scored on the ensuing power play at 13:40 of the first.
Washington finally had a few calls go in their favor, and after whiffing on pucks with multiple chances at an empty net on the power play, Ovechkin one-timed a shot from below the left circle through Budaj’s legs with 23 seconds remaining in the period.
After a solid second period, the Capitals came out with even more energy in the third. Ovechkin scored his second goal of the night, a tip in off of John Carlson’s blast from the point at 12:27.
Oates pulled Holtby with time running out in the game, but the Caps weren’t able to score and force overtime.