In the Washington Capitals’ crucial Metropolitan Division matchup against the New York Islanders, both teams were scoreless after two periods, which hadn’t even occurred once in any of the Capitals 57 games this season. The Capitals also desperately needed a win against a divisional opponent to stay in the playoff hunt, but fell short and were shut out 1-0 by Evgeny Nabokov and the Islanders.
The Capitals’ power play struggles continued, even against the Islanders’ league worst penalty kill. For a team that relies as heavily on the man advantage to score as the Capitals do, going 0-for-6 on the power play is not an ideal situation.
On the other hand, it isn’t good to rely on the man advantage as much as the Capitals have this season. Teams don’t get as many power plays in the playoffs, so they have to find ways to score at even strength, something the Capitals have had difficulty doing consistently.
Stringing a few wins together would probably help the Capitals postseason chances. Karl Alzner cautioned against the team going “win one, lose one, the rest of the way.” Adam Oates agreed that close games like the 1-0 decision Tuesday to the Islanders are games that playoff teams have to win.
He didn’t imply that the Capitals are not a playoff team, but he has a good point. Much has been made over the last several years of the Capitals’ lack of “killer instinct” or, more formally, taking advantage of an opponent while they are vulnerable. The Islanders are drowning in the Metro Division and have the worst penalty kill in the league, but the Capitals couldn’t throw a knockout punch while the Islanders were exposed.
Michael Neuvirth was solid in his third straight start, his third game in five days. He stopped 27 of 28 shots, and certainly deserved better that what he got from his teammates – five penalty kills and no goal support.
“We just have to stay out of the penalty box,” said Eric Fehr. “We’ve been doing this to ourselves for the past two weeks. Takes the momentum right out of the game.”
Oates also pointed to weariness as a factor in the loss. “Maybe a little fatigue for the boys,” he said. “We played a lot of hockey. It is tough sledding out there, game in and game out, and you’re fighting a lot of uphill battles. I didn’t think they executed either. Both power plays were pretty ineffective, and their goalie played well early. Neuvy [Michal Neuvirth] played well the whole game. We didn’t test them much late.”
The Capitals take on the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday and the New Jersey Devils on Saturday to round out their homestand before the Olympic break.