The Washington Capitals defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-1 on Friday. They got bounces, they found the back of the net with ease, and they played a passionate brand of hockey.
The two teams’ rematch two days later in Tampa was exactly the opposite. The Capitals gave up four goals to the Lightning before they even got a shot on goal in the first period. They were never in the game and lost 6-3.
In the locker room, acting head coach Kevin McCarthy and several other players including Lars Eller, Garnet Hathaway, and Charlie Lindgren excoriated the team’s performance.
“We did it all to ourselves,” Lars Eller said. “I think it was the worst 20 minutes I’ve seen us play this year. We were horse s#%^. Flat out. We looked like we were a team [at the] top of the standings and won 10 in a row. Casual in a 1-1 game. We got to bring a whole new attitude, effort, battle, and mentality. We can do that and still be creative and make plays and hold onto pucks. Today they ran right over us. It starts with the effort and attitude and mentality and it just wasn’t there. We were way too casual. I think we thought we were better than we are. We need to humble ourselves a little bit here.”
Eller didn’t stop there. “We should be very aware of where we find ourselves in the standings,” he said, pointing out that the Caps are in sixth place in the Metropolitan Division and currently out of a playoff spot. “Our mentality, our plays, our attitude out there has to reflect that we’re fighting for our lives. Today we were casual, I don’t know, almost a little bit arrogant. I don’t know where that came from. It was tough to watch. Tough to be a part of. We had no business hanging our goalie out to dry like that. It’s just disappointing. It’s not what I like or what our true identity is. Today it was and we can’t let that happen again.”
Two of the goals Kuemper surrendered bounced off the Capitals and in while two others were shots that eluded him. Kuemper was replaced by backup Charlie Lindgren after the fourth goal.
“You never like coming into a game like that,” Lindgren said. “I feel bad for Kemps. Obviously, there were a few bad bounces there. Not much he could have done. Felt bad for him.
“That first period was tough to watch,” he added. “I thought we got better, but I think we still have a lot [more] to give.”
Garnet Hathaway, who was whistled for an offensive-zone penalty during the game, blamed the first period on special teams and the team making poor decisions with the puck.
“Tonight we were taking on water early and fighting it and forcing plays,” Hathaway said. “And they are a team that is great on the transition and we kind of buried ourselves in our own zone and gave the momentum and confidence.”
Assistant coach Kevin McCarthy, who is leading the team with Peter Laviolette in COVID protocol, was very discouraged by the team’s play in the first period and shared a great metaphor for it.
“We came out and we weren’t even close to being ready to play,” McCarthy said. “It’s pretty obvious out there. It was like we were trying to catch a moving train. We were late to everything. They were first on pucks. They won every puck battle. They won every race for a puck. They did everything that we talked about we needed to do. It was all around terrible, terrible 20 minutes.
How the Lightning came out should not have been a surprise considering the Caps’ blowout win over them Friday.
“We played a team that had lost a game, weren’t happy with how they played and came out and they were ready,” McCarthy said. “We talked about that. We knew what we were up against but obviously, we weren’t prepared to play the way we needed to be successful tonight.”
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