WASHINGTON – It had to end sometime.
The Washington Capitals had their modest three-game winning streak snapped on Tuesday night, falling to the lowly New York Islanders 3-0 inside Verizon Center. P.A. Parenteau had two goals to lead the visitors offensively, while Evgeni Nabokov made 17 saves for his 51st career shutout. It was the first time this season that the Capitals were shut out.
“We didn’t play Capital hockey,” said winger Joel Ward. “We made a couple of poor choices and different times, and they capitalized.”
For a team that desperately needed two points at home before heading on the road to play the Canadiens on Wednesday night, the Capitals looked pitiful from the start, allowing odd-man rushes, taking silly penalties, and allowing the Islanders, who had played the day before, to walk all over them.
An early penalty by Karl Alzner was the first culprit, leading to a beautiful goal in front off the stick of John Tavares, and the Capitals were lucky that Tavares was the only man to find his mark in the opening frame.
“I think the thing that hurt us tonight is we were flat,” said Matt Hendricks. Captain Alex Ovechkin felt the same way. “We don’t make hits in the first period,” he said. “Just play casual. We have only (five) shots in the first period, it's not our game. We have to make more shots on net and make more opportunity from that."
Parenteau doubled the visiting team’s lead only six minutes into the second period when a very poor passing play between Dmitry Orlov and John Carlson gave the winger all day in front, a chance he converted easily on Vokoun. “It was a bad pass,” said Dale Hunter. “The video won’t lie.”
After that goal, the Capitals really looked defeated, and the boo birds began to rain down on them. “100% deserved,” said Alzner of the boos.
It was so bad, in fact, that at the midway point of regulation, Washington was down 2-0 and had only registered seven shots on goal.
Towards the end of the second period, though, it looked as though the Capitals may have found some momentum, as they began to pressure New York and carried some of that offensive momentum through to the beginning stages of the third period, but then fell completely flat as the frame continued.
After another late push within five minutes remaining, though, Parenteau put the final nail in an already secure coffin when a poor penalty from Jeff Halpern led to a power play that was converted on almost instantly.
“That power play goal, killed us,” said Hunter. “That’s it when that happens. Two power play goals where we didn’t get back to the net. We made mistakes on our penalty kill. If you make mistakes on the penalty kill, it’s going to end up in the back of your net.”
“We didn’t get the kills when we needed them,” added Brooks Laich.
Parenteau, who recorded his first ever multi-goal game in the contest, said about his team’s power play: “It’s been working really well lately, we’re moving the puck and playing with a lot of confidence. We’ve got skilled players…when we move the puck, we have success.”
This was a game that, on paper, the Capitals should have won. They know that, but unfortunately, the two points are already gone.
“Maybe getting a little overconfident,” said Alzner when asked to identify a problem. “It was just not enough effort against this team, thinking that, you know, it’s the New York Islanders. Even though they play us hard every single time we play them, and it was definitely the wrong mindset.”
Another disturbing trend in this game was the continued inability of the Capitals to maintain offensive momentum and get constant pressure on home ice, something that was alarmingly apparent against the Hurricanes on Sunday and even more so tonight.
“I think tonight carried over, maybe, after a lackluster game against Carolina,” said Laich. "We didn’t play well tonight. I didn’t think our passing was very good tonight, and when you do that you’ve got no flow and a lot of turnovers."
But there is no time, now, for Washington to stew on missed chances. Heading into tomorrow night’s game inside the always hostile Bell Centre, the Capitals have some serious corrections to make if they are going to come out on top against a team below them in the standings. They are, however, optimistic heading into that date with the Canadiens.
“It’s a new day and a new game for us,” said Ward. "We are going to be up to the challenge, for sure.”
“It’s a chance to get right back at it,” added Laich. “Just like these guys (the Islanders). They played (Monday) and lost, then came in here a hungry team. For us, we just need to get back at it tomorrow.”
“This is going to be a big character road trip for the team here,” concluded Ward.
For the Capitals’ sake, it had better be. Now barely hanging on to the playoff picture more than halfway through the season and consistency hard to come by, especially on the road, the clock is ticking.
And time is not on Washington’s side.
NOTES: Tuesday night’s game was the first time in over a month that the Capitals trailed, let alone lost, on home ice…the Capitals have now failed to collect points against the Islanders in two consecutive games after doing so for their previous ten match-ups with the team, including nine wins…John Carlson has now gone nine games in a row without a point, a season high for him...Washington has the same record under Dale Hunter after 22 games (12-9-1) as they had under Bruce Boudreau in his 22 games behind the bench this year.Harry Hawkings is a college student who covers the Caps for RtR. Follow him on Twitter here.