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Capitals Point To Work Ethic, Motivation As Reasons For ‘Embarrassing’ Loss
By ZAC BOYER | firstname.lastname@example.org
WASHINGTON – If the Washington Capitals are going to make anything of their season, one that still is only three games old, they better hope that Thursday’s loss to Montreal is about as bad as it will ever get.
“Embarrassing is almost the right term right now,” forward Troy Brower said, moments after the Capitals lost 4-1 to visiting Montreal at the Verizon Center. “Pathetic is probably a better one. You know, I feel bad for the fans. I’d like to finish a game with at least 50 percent of the fans still in the stands. Their reaction is completely warranted – booing us. We haven’t earned any respect. We haven’t earned any of their passion, their ambition. We’ve got to turn something around, and we’ve got to do it fast.”
The Capitals have lost all three of their games, marking the first time since the 1994-95 season that they have been winless at such a point in the season. With victories by Carolina and Philadelphia on Thursday, Washington is also the only team in the Eastern Conference without a point.
It’s a concerning position for a team that believed as recently as two weeks ago that it had answered the deficiencies it faced after losing in the second round of the playoffs last May.
By now, however, Washington can no longer rest on the idea that the lockout that cost teams 34 games has had an effect on its conditioning and readiness.
“It’s very upsetting,” head coach Adam Oates said. “Not pushing the panic button, but obviously it’s upsetting.”
Effort has plagued the Capitals over their first two games – a situation that’s no more apparent than on the penalty kill. Washington has gone just 11-for-18 while playing shorthanded this season, again surrendering a pair of goals without the man advantage in the second period.
Until Tomas Plekanec scored with four seconds remaining on a 5-on-3 situation just shy of four minutes in, Washington had been playing fairly solid, if not impressive, hockey. The Capitals pushed the puck in the offensive zone and pressed a Montreal defense that had not surrendered an even-strength goal in its first two games.
But undisciplined penalties, which have been the problem all season, returned. Alex Ovechkin was called for interference, Brouwer sent the puck over the glass for a delay of game and Matt Hendricks crashed into Carey Price, who had 30 saves, for goaltender interference all within 2:41.
Andrei Markov scored the Canadiens’ second goal no more than a minute after Plekanec’s, knocking in a rebound of a shot by Max Pacioretti that deflected off of goaltender Michal Neuvirth.
Brian Gionta added a goal 8:39 into the second period, exploiting a collapse on defense by John Carlson and Karl Alzner, and Josh Gorges drilled a slap shot from Francis Bouillon from the right point with just over two minutes left in the period for the four-goal lead.
Only a garbage-time goal by Joey Crabb, scored with 2:23 left in the game on assists from Jason Chimera and Jay Beagle, prevented the Capitals from a shutout.
“Some of those little breakdowns that we’ve had are not really working or paying attention to getting into the right spot,” Crabb said. “We’ve got a lot of skill on this team and that’s something that you can’t control on a lot of teams, but what you can control is your work ethic and how hard you play. Obviously, we know what we got to do.”
Oates split up his lines in the third period for the second consecutive game, searching for something that would help pace the offense. Crabb was one of three players – Wojtek Wolski and Marcus Johansson the others – who Oates tried on the top line with Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. The head coach also split up Alzner and Carlson, his top defensive pairing, in the third period.
Nothing provided answers. The Capitals will play tonight at New Jersey, the team for which Oates served as an assistant coach for the previous two seasons, and do so searching any semblance of a direction.
“I think guys have got to take it upon themselves to really pick their game up,” Brouwer said. “You know, we don’t need a rah-rah coach right now. We don’t need guys to yell and scream. We need guys to be professional and play hard, tough hockey.”
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