Since clinching a playoff berth back on March 15, the Capitals have lost six of 11 games. Since clinching the Presidents’ Trophy on March 28, they’ve lost four of five.
And for the first time all season, they now know what it’s like to lose three games in a row, something that hasn’t happened since the second round of last year’s playoffs.
On the bright side, the Capitals clawed their way back from a 3-0 deficit to the Penguins Thursday night to send the game into overtime, where Sidney Crosby gave the Penguins their eighth straight victory with a breakaway backhander past Braden Holtby.
On the dark side, for two periods the Capitals looked like a team trying to hop on a runaway train.
“Way too much cheat in our game, not enough detail and not enough work,” Caps coach Barry Trotz said. “You can’t go around games, you gotta go through them and we didn’t go through them early.”
The Penguins looked like the hottest team in the NHL in the opening period, prompting a “little chat” from Trotz. Tom Wilson didn’t need a chat.
Trotz glued the third-line right winger to the bench after he took a boarding major on Nick Bonino 2:27 into the second period. Wilson never saw an even-strength shift after that.
Asked if there might be additional consequences for Wilson, like perhaps a game in the press box, Trotz quipped, “What, send him to jail? What do you want me to do? I think it’s a clear message.”
Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby, who allowed four goals on 35 shots and lost in overtime for the second straight game in his bid to tie Martin Brodeur’s record of 48 wins, said the Caps looked good for flashes.
“But we’re not going to last very long if we play like we did tonight,” Holtby said. “The work ethic wasn’t there, the execution wasn’t there. It was a big challenge tonight playing the hottest team in the league and hopefully we realize we’re a lot better team than that and we need to work. Things don’t come easy in this league.”
Things certainly have not come easy for Holtby, who on Tuesday experienced the anguish of blowing a 3-1 third-period lead to the Islanders and losing in overtime. Thursday night, the Caps rallied from a 3-1 third-period deficit, only to see Crosby win it in OT.
“I think it's enough to talk about,” said Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin. “Of course we want to win for him, but let it go. Enough pressure for him.”
MORE CAPITALS: HOLTBY HARD ON CAPS
Trotz said he’ll need more overall production from his lineup if the Capitals hope to have a long playoff run.
“We’ve got some players that haven’t done much for us in the last little while and they’ll have to figure it out. We’re two games from the playoffs and if you’re not going you’ll probably be out or moved down the lineup. Because it’s the first one to four. You have no time to wait for guys to get going.”
Trotz didn’t name names, but …
- Evgeny Kuznetsov has not scored a goal since March 1 (18 games) and picked up just his third assist in 10 games.
- Justin Williams has just one goal and three assists in his last 11 games.
- Jason Chimera has one goal in his last nine games.
- Wilson has one goal in his last 18 games.
- Andre Burakovsky’s game-tying goal was his first in nine games.
- Jay Beagle has one goal in his last 16 games.
One way or another, Trotz wants to see more when the Capitals visit the St. Louis Blues Saturday night.
“We’re playing teams in high gear right now and we’re not there yet,” Trotz said. “This has got to be a pretty good wakeup call. It has to be.”