The Penguins handed the Caps their worst loss on Sunday since a 5-0 loss to San Jose in the second game of the season which is not what fans want to see less than a month out from the start of the playoffs.
The game followed what has become a depressingly familiar script in which the Caps gave up an early lead and were forced to battle their way back. After tying the game at 2 in the second period, however, Pittsburgh proceeded to score four unanswered goals to hand the Caps the lopsided loss.
Let's keep this game in perspective. The week for the Caps, overall, was a success. They clinched a playoff spot, the first team to do so in the NHL this season, in a win over Carolina. They also dominated the red-shot Nashville Predators. One loss to Pittsburgh does not erase a strong week or season for the Caps nor do six straight wins automatically propel the Penguins ahead of the Caps as the conference front-runner (or in this week's rankings).
The takeaway from Sunday's game shouldn't be that the Penguins have suddenly surpassed the Caps, it simply shows that the way the Caps have cruised through the last month of the season is not going to cut it come the playoffs. That dominant lead the Caps have in the standings doesn't mean anything when the team sleepwalks its way to a 2-0 deficit against an archrival.
For the last few weeks, we have seen the Caps give up early goals and battle their way back to improbable wins. That will work in the regular season, but it is a recipe for disaster in the playoffs.
So where do the Caps stack up among the other NHL teams and just how close have behind them are the Penguins? Find out here in this week's NHL Power Rankings.