Photo: Patrick Smith
The Capitals came back to beat the Minnesota Wild 3-2. Though they eventually had dramatic goals from Alex Ovechkin and Dmitry Orlov, they looked listless for more than 40 minutes of play. After the game, Caps head coach Barry Trotz could anticipate what was coming.
“It’s 31 times that we haven’t scored first,” Trotz told a reporter who asked about Washington’s poor play early on. “Not that I count it out.”
The Caps have now have now allowed the game’s first goal seven games in a row and 14 of their last 17 games. Many of these slow starts have been against mediocre teams like the Coyotes and the Wild who both made Washington look pathetic in the first period this week. The Capitals usually come back — barely. Twelve of their last 14 games have been decided by one goal. Eight of those 12 games were victories for Washington.
“Sometimes it’s fool’s gold,” Trotz said of struggling teams. “It’s something that we’re talking about and trying to address. Sometimes when you’re winning it falls on deaf ears.”
These sluggish stretches likely have a simple cause: the Capitals have a 12 point lead in the Presidents’ Trophy race, 17 point lead in the Metropolitan Division, which is the de facto race for the best record in the Eastern Conference.
“I think it’s just mental,” Alex Ovechkin said. “It’s human nature, when you know you’re in a good spot and you don’t need a push.”
Nevertheless, some Capitals players are still concerned.
“That’s not going to work in the playoffs,” Nicklas Backstrom said. “You’re playing teams that can really shut you down then. We’re talking about it every day and we need to get better at it. We were really lucky today.”
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