By Katie Adler
The Washington Capitals dropped their third straight game in an unimpressive 5-1 showing against the Tampa Bay Lightning, Thursday. At no point in any of the three games did the Capitals hold a lead, and their offense has been limited to a single goal in two straight. For a team ostensibly still trying to make the playoffs, the performance failed to engender hope for a miraculous turnaround.
After yet another collapse, Nick Jensen expressed frustration with the team’s effort as they attempted to make a last stand.
“I think everyone’s got a little more to give,” he said. “You’re getting off the ice, you shouldn’t even be able to breathe you were working so hard. I think if we had that mentality I don’t think the results are coming the way they are. That’s just my thought on it. We’ve just got to keep finding a way to get better.”
The Capitals played tired, traveling to Tampa on the second half of a back-to-back, but Jensen emphasized that that was no excuse.
“It’s not an easy schedule getting in, flying in a couple hours, getting in at 2 am, 3 am, trying to play a game, but every team’s got to do that in the league. You’ve got to expect it. You can’t really use that as a crutch. Personally, I felt like I had pretty good energy tonight. I don’t know how everyone else felt.”
Former Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner, who was serving as an analyst for NBC Sports Washington’s pre and postgame shows, noticed something seemed off in the team’s performance as well.
“Just from watching, some body language and stuff, there’s a little bit of a disconnect out there, whether that’s the weight of the season or some other things we don’t know,” Alzner said after the game concluded.
Head coach Peter Laviolette noted that the team’s play improved over the course of the game but still failed to meet expectations.
“Nothing’s going to look good in the first period,” he said. “Just wasn’t good. We weren’t quick enough, competitive enough. We didn’t win enough battles. I thought it got better in the second period. I liked the way we played the second. It was a better period for us. At the end of the day, we lost the game, so it’s not good enough.”
In what should have been a must-win game, the Capitals instead went out with a whimper against the Bolts, who have gone 5-5-0 in their last 10 games. Expected goals-for at all strengths were 66 percent in favor of Tampa Bay while the Capitals saw only 21 scoring chances to the Bolts’ 42 at five-on-five. Tampa out-attempted, out-chanced, and frankly outplayed the Capitals.
The game also showed worrying signs for members of Washington’s core. The Capitals were out-attempted at five-on-five 17-10 when Nicklas Backstrom was on the ice (37 percent corsi). Tom Wilson had a staggering expected goal percentage of 14 percent. Only Anthony Mantha and Evgeny Kuznetsov recorded a positive +/-; Alex Ovechkin was minus-three. Even fourth-line linchpin, Nic Dowd, struggled as he was on the ice for nine high-danger chances.
The team now has several days off to ruminate on the loss. They will face the New York Rangers for a Sunday matinee, kicking off the final two weeks of the regular season.
Headline photo: Alan Dobbins/RMNB
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