SAN JOSE -- The Washington Capitals (20-4-5) are good. Like, really, ridiculously good, as evidenced by their 5-2 win over the Sharks (15-13-1) on Tuesday at SAP Center.
But to the Sharks' credit, they started out well against the Caps. When Washington scored two goals within 53 seconds in the first period to take a 2-1 lead, there was still a chance San Jose could rally and make a comeback. Heck, the Sharks did just a couple of days ago in their win over the Arizona Coyotes, right?
A repeat wasn't in the cards Tuesday. The Sharks' defense took its foot off of the gas after the early deficit and gave the Capitals plenty of room to overwhelm them.
"I thought our commitment to defend in our own zone was poor tonight," coach Peter DeBoer said after the loss. "The other night in Phoenix, we were turning the pucks over and giving them breakaways. I don't think it was that type of game [tonight]. I think we were just soft in our coverage."
"We didn't defend hard enough," Sharks captain Logan Couture said, agreeing with DeBoer's assessment. "They're too good of a team. In that Arizona game, we gave up a lot of chances to start the game, but luckily they missed or [Martin] Jones made the saves. [The Capitals] are too good to miss on those chances, and they wound up in the back of our net."
It didn't help matters that the Sharks' overall game came unraveled in the second stanza. San Jose lost its jump shown at the start of the first period, and that wasn't a good sign for a team already in a 3-1 hole.
The Caps had no problem taking advantage of the Sharks' defense after that, hemming them in their own zone.
"We kind of got what we deserved," defenseman Brenden Dillon said. "We weren't executing in the d-zone and weren't picking up guys, and up against the best team in the league ... they're going to make you pay like that."
"They're such a good team that when you don't play well they're going to make you pay," Couture added. "And they certainly did. They scored five there, but they could've easily had six or seven."
The player who paid the biggest price for those mistakes was goaltender Martin Jones, who got the hook after surrendering five goals through two periods. It was a disappointing outing, given he had just been named one of the NHL's three Stars of the Week.
But as Couture pointed out, the players in front of Jones needed to be better.
"We left him hanging out to dry like we did multiple times at the start of the year," the captain admitted. "We have to get back to defending a little bit harder."
Even though the Sharks will be able to put this loss to the Capitals in the rear-view mirror, the need for better defense only becomes greater with a four-game road trip coming up against the Carolina Hurricanes, Tampa Bay Lightning, Florida Panthers, and Nashville Predators. All four teams are in the top 15 in goals scored this season.
If there's one overall moral to Tuesday's story, is that the Sharks defense can't backpedal as it did against the Caps.
"We'll go through the video tomorrow and just get ready for the next one," Martin Jones said. "You go through this all the time during the season. It's just about getting ready for the next game here."