If you thought the Washington Capitals’ loss Tuesday on home ice to the Toronto Maple Leafs was bad, well, it was. But the five-goal onslaught in the second period by the Pittsburgh Penguins was probably the worst 20 minutes of hockey the Caps have played all season, and the resultant 5-2 loss in Pittsburgh drops the Cpas to a league-worst 2-8-1.
Their five points earned in 11 games would be a 37-point pace over 82 games.
It’s the Caps first regulation loss in Pittsburgh since 2007. The Capitals are still winless on the road this season.
The Caps actually got on the board first, with Mike Ribeiro netting his fourth goal of the season. Pens goalie Marc-Andre Fleury got tangled up with his own defenseman, Brooks Orpik, and lost his mask, giving Ribeiro an opportunity to take advantage of a rare mistake by the opposition this season.
But the second period was all Penguins.
Evgeni Malkin started the scoring at 6:59 on the power play, taking a feed by Sidney Crosby across the seam of the Caps defense in the left-wing circle. Malkin walked in unmolested and whipped the puck over Michael Neuvirth’s left shoulder to tie the game. Pascual Dupuis made it 2-1 on a 2-on-1 with Crosby, causing coach Adam Oates to lift Neuvirth.
Another power play four minutes later led to another goal. James Neal slipped behind Tomas Kundratek and Roman Hamrlik, faked Braden Holty to the ice, and calmly lifted the puck on the backhand over the sprawled Holtby to go up 3-1.
Just 11 seconds later, adding insult to injury, Riberio lost a defensive zone draw, with Brandon Sutter pulling the puck straight back to Matt Cooke. Cooke used a flat-footed Hamrlik as a screen an sent a wrist shot past Holtby to make it 4-1.
Crosby ended the second period scoring, tipping out of mid-air a shot from Malkin that bounced through Holtby. It was another power play goal, three on the evening for the Pens.
The Caps added a goal in the third period on their own power play on Alex Ovechkin’s third goal, and third power play goal, of the season. All three have been wrist shots from the same spot on the power play, the left-wing circle. This time, Ribeiro got a cross-ice pass through the Pens D and Ovechkin was alone at the dot. He collected the pass, loaded, and beat Fleury low stick-side.
There’s no way to sugar coat things for the Caps right now. Their play is dreadful. Their body language when things start to unravel is alarming. And worse, quotes from the locker room after the game indicate that players still aren’t mentally into the game. Karl Alzner called the team “mentally weak.” Troy Brouwer said, “We just weren’t ready to play. Our minds weren’t in it.”
And Ovechkin said he was “angry,” and that the team played with no emotion.
How, after starting the season with two wins in 10 games, heading to play your biggest rival in their building, can you not be ready to play? How is that even possible?
The Capitals play again Saturday night, at home, against the Florida Panthers (4-5-1). They have two days to stew about this loss. Can they find a way to be tougher mentally? Can they find a way to be ready to play? Will they play with emotion? With anger? Or will the same problems that have plagued them all season long continue as they slump along as the worst team in the NHL?