For many, the reason why the Capitals lost to the New York Islanders on Thursday was obvious. Two disastrous turnovers in the third period by Dmitry Orlov led to two goals for the Islanders in what had been a scoreless tie and the Caps never recovered.
Matt Niskanen saw Thursday's loss differently.
"The story of the game was our power play wasn't very good," he said.
Obviously the mistakes from Orlov were costly, but the Caps' inability to score leading up to that point, specifically on the power play, put them in that position.
"Five-on-five we probably played well enough to be in the game which we were," Niskanen said. "But you get that many chances on the power play you should win the game so that one's on us I think."
Washington went 0-for-6 with the man advantage on Thursday against an Islanders team ranked in the bottom half of the NHL with only 82.1 percent success on the penalty kill. A power play that boasts players like Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom has now failed to score in its last 10 opportunities and has only one power play goal in its last 14 tries. For the season, the Caps have only a 14.3 percent success rate with the extra man.
And failure on the power play doesn't just hurt the team's offense.
"I think the other team gets momentum off of that many kills too," Niskanen said.
"I think you get lot more momentum from killing penalties than you do from the power play," head coach Barry Trotz said, "...I thought especially in the third when it was 0-0, we had a real good chance to take the game in hand right off the start of the period and it gave us a little momentum and then we came up with a couple of 5-on-5 shifts where we had lot of zone time, buzzing around, all of a sudden it comes down and they score. And it is a little bit deflating, but those are the mental components that you've got to fight through."
The team's struggles are particularly frustrating given the success they have had in recent years. Washington has finished at least in the top five in power play effectiveness in each of the last four seasons. A quarter of the way into the season and they are well off that pace.
That's not good news for a team that has lost its last two games and three of its last five.
"If your power play's clicking, it can be really intimidating thing and our power play has been intimidating in the past few years," Trotz said. "This year, the numbers aren't illustrating that it's intimidating right now."
MORE CAPITALS: Caps prank Vrana in warmups