WASHINGTON — Early in the third period and up 2-0, the Washington Capitals were in control, and it looked like the narrative was finally going to change against the Arizona Coyotes. Alex Ovechkin made history in the second period with his 787th career goal, and Anthony Mantha picked up his first goal in seven games. There was pressure, and up to that point, Washington was doing everything right.
Then, just 6:33 into the third, things changed, and it was the same story on a different night for the Capitals. Arizona got on the board, and from that point on, things spiralled as the Coyotes piled on three unanswered goals — including one with 35.4 seconds to go — to beat Washington 3-2.
“I don’t know what it is. We just haven’t done enough to win,” Trevor van Riemsdyk said. It’s hard to win in this league and unfortunately, we haven’t been making the simple things, the simple plays to just get us [the win] when it’s late in the game.”
The Capitals have now dropped four straight games. What makes those losses sting more, though, is the fact that they’ve held the lead in each of those games, and has had a clear-cut chance to win. They just can’t finish what they started.
“We’ve been there for four games in a row, and we haven’t got it done,” head coach Peter Laviolette said. “Mentally, we got to dial in and focus and get it done in the third period. We haven’t; it’s on us.”
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Laviolette also doesn’t want his group making excuses, even though the team lost Dmitry Orlov to injury against Arizona and Washington now has eight skaters, including four top-6 guys and two top defensemen, on the shelf.
“Injuries don’t have anything to do with the game tonight. We had a game, we were in control of it, we were up 2-0, we needed to bury it, and we didn’t,” Laviolette added. “It’s on us. injuries are part of it and there are things we could have done on the ice to win the third period or be better in the third period.”
When it comes to what’s been going wrong for Washington, the Capitals can’t pinpoint the exact issue but know that a lot of it starts with putting in a full 60-minute effort.
“We need to finish games, we need to play 60,” Mantha said. “Right now, obviously, we’re not doing it. We get the lead, we’re working hard to get the lead and they score on and we’re kind of on our heels. And we just let ourselves get maybe outshot or something at the end of the period.”
Going into Monday’s tilt against the Edmonton Oilers, Ovechkin agreed with Mantha and said that the entire team needs to come together to find a way to get back on track.
“No excuses, obviously,” Ovechkin said. “It starts from us leaders, and we can’t blame [injuries] on it. Every player who plays in the NHL has some level to play, and obviously, we miss those guys. But right now, the situation is we have to pull on the rope with all our hands and don’t panic and don’t think it’s over. We just have to bounce back and play together as a team and as a group.”