WASHINGTON — In getting out to a slow start and blowing a two-goal lead all in one game, the Capitals’ performance in Thursday’s 4-3 overtime loss to the Ottawa Senators was a stark difference from the way they’ve played throughout the month of December.
Across their previous 11 games, the Capitals had trailed after the first period only three times and won all three games. They had only blown one lead over that entire span. So for the Capitals to be outshot 12-0 to open the game Thursday before letting a 3-1 advantage turn into a 4-3 loss with multiple goals coming off turnovers was a strange sight.
“I think they outworked us, obviously outshot us,” center Dylan Strome said after the game. “So wasn’t a great first period but I thought we played well in the second and battled back and had some really good chances to win in the third so obviously we’ve been starting pretty good and I think that was kind of an anomaly there so just get ready for the next game.”
Entering play Thursday, the Capitals averaged 8.1 giveaways per game in December, which ranked among the middle of the pack in the NHL. They had 15 giveaways against the Senators in addition to a crucial takeaway by Claude Giroux on Evgeny Kuznetsov in overtime that led to Alex DeBrincat’s game-winner.
“It was kind of wait, trying to avoid where the guy's gonna and he just kind of put his stick right perfect on the puck,” Kuznetsov said. “So yeah, it was my mistake but only dead people doesn't make mistakes, right? Unfortunately, that's how it is. I take responsibility for sure.”
With one game left in December before they turn the calendar to the new year, the Capitals will look to end what has largely been a stellar month on a high note Saturday against the Montreal Canadiens. Even with the overtime loss Thursday, the Capitals have gone 10-2-2 in December to propel themselves into the thick of the playoff race.
That didn’t make the loss hurt any less for Washington, however. Head coach Peter Laviolette was clearly displeased with the performance in his postgame press conference, offering a blunt assessment of how they played.
“They were the better team tonight from the start to the end,” Laviolette said. “So, lesson to be learned for us that we can’t come out that way.”
Given how uncharacteristic their outing against Ottawa was, Strome hopes the team can learn from its mistakes before turning the page and moving on to the next.
“I’m sure we’re gonna watch some stuff about it,” Strome said of Thursday’s loss. “I think we can be a little bit better in some areas but I think we know what we gotta do to be successful and we kind of got away from that in the first period and then we found a way to get a lead and then we couldn’t hold onto it. So there’s some things we can get better at but I thought we did some good things so I think overall this month has been pretty good for us and hopefully we can finish it out strong on the 31st.”