With Clock Ticking, Shell-Shocked Capitals Seek Fix: ‘Obviously Something’s Going Wrong’
The Washington Capitals are desperately seeking answers as mounting losses and growing frustration clouds their playoff hopes with just 10 games to go in the regular season.
WASHINGTON — The Washington Capitals were shell-shocked after they saw their 3-0 first-period lead over the Columbus Blue Jackets turn into a 7-6 overtime loss. Following the defeat, Washington didn't have an exact answer for what went wrong in a game that they should have and had to win, with the playoffs getting further out of reach and just 10 more games to go in the regular season.
However, captain Alex Ovechkin had a simple observation that summed things up well for his team.
"Finally we get a very good start… first 10 minutes in the second period, we kind of stopped playing," Ovechkin, who was honored pregame and broke Wayne Gretzky's record for the most 40-plus goal seasons, said.
Washington had fallen into a pattern over the last few games, getting off to a slow start and falling after their rallies and comeback efforts proved too little, too late. Then, Tuesday presented an inverse of the scenario, where a strong start led to the team stepping off the gas and letting Columbus back into the game, resulting in just one point for D.C. And, in a way, it made the loss even more difficult to process considering the team solved one major issue but fell into another one with only so much time left to fight for a postseason spot.
"I mean, it’s frustrating. Obviously, it’s not coming easy right now. We shot ourselves in the foot a little bit," Tom Wilson said. "Some of these games here can be kind of open hockey and that’s kind of what the other team wants, and we got to make sure we’re keeping it tight and good habits, good fundamentals."
Nick Jensen, who struck twice and had the late go-ahead goal that had almost secured the win for Washington, agreed, saying that the situation is a tough pill to swallow and that to move on, the team needs to stop the bleeding — and fast — while also addressing the main area where things are falling apart: the backcheck.
"You've got to keep reiterating defense and working at it and finding what's going wrong. There obviously is something going wrong," he pointed out. "We got to find those and make defense a priority. I know we've been saying that all year long, and it's tough to keep repeating yourself like that, but you give up seven goals in one night, you're not going to win very many games."
The Capitals return to action on Thursday with a tilt against the Chicago Blackhawks. It's another must-win and should-win showdown, and there's an emphasis on playing a full 60 and getting two points with the team now five points out of playoff position behind the Florida Panthers, who also own the tiebreaker.
"Just keep playing," Alex Ovechkin said simply. "All we can do. Play and try and win games."