The Washington Times - December 6, 2011, 05:01PM

SUNRISE, Fla. | Penalties were the culprit when the Washington Capitals suffered their first loss of the season, Oct. 27 at the Edmonton Oilers. Throughout the tailspin since, they have flared up now and then as a source of major problems. 

That happened again Monday night, as the Caps committed six minors – plus a game misconduct – something that dug a hole at Florida that they couldn’t climb out of.


“It hinders us right away. We don’t want that,” defenseman Karl Alzner said. “We shoot ourselves in the foot right away.”

Perhaps owner Ted Leonsis summed it up best.

“We took a million penalties last night and the Panthers scored 3 times on their power play. So we have that going for us,” he blogged.

That, of course, brings up something else.

“Freaky things happen out there. We’ve got to be more disciplined,” coach Dale Hunter said. “We’ve got to do a better job killing.”

The penalty kill was 8-for-8 under Hunter before Monday night.

John Carlson said the struggles before that 8-for-8 stretch were a product of some bad bounces. And the struggles Monday included the same things.

One way to fix that? Don’t take so many penalties.

“When you take penalties, it really takes away from your flow,” forward Brooks Laich said. “That’s why they had the majority of the chances on the power play and then also they’re thinking offensively and they get offensive chances five-on-five.”

The Caps are the fourth-least penalized team in hockey (10.1 PIM a game), but when they commit them in bunches, bad things happen. Monday night was a perfect example.

“If you can stay out of the box – bad penalties and some questionable calls on the refs’ part – that’s the game,” forward Jason Chimera said.

A couple calls might have fit that “questionable” status, but Hunter insisted that didn’t matter.

“Some of them were whatever you want to call them they’re still a penalty,” the coach said. “When the refs call it, it doesn’t matter if it was right or wrong in my eyes. But it’s their eyes that count.”

And opponents’ goals that count – and hurt. Michal Neuvirth stopped seven of the 10 power-play shots he faced, and the penalty kill in general was not its recently dominant self.

“The game’s too close to give up that many penalties – and them scoring on those penalties,” Chimera said. “It’s too close. We can’t come back from that. Right from the goalie on out, we need a bigger save, we need a lot better effort out of everybody.”

That starts with taking fewer penalties.