PHILADELPHIA | The Washington Capitals’ inconsistent season has been wrought with bouts of rough stretches. Five minutes here, 10 minutes there and games were lost in the process, as players lamented an inability to put together a full, 60-minute effort.
Wednesday night at the Philadelphia Flyers, the Caps struggled to put even five good minutes together, and for the first time this season they were skated out of the building. The 4-1 loss at Wells Fargo Center was their most lopsided of the season and drowned out good feelings built up in a rout of the Carolina Hurricanes 24 hours earlier.
It could not have been more of a polar-opposite performance, as the Caps were beaten to just about every loose puck and were a half-step slow. Blame the back-to-back games or perhaps the train ride from Washington to Philadelphia, but the Caps were as out of sorts as they’ve been all year.
They were never really in the game. Claude Giroux scored 23 seconds in, and the Caps hardly threatened as they dug themselves deeper into a hole.
The Caps were down 2-0 just 4:04 in, and by the time Max Talbot made it 4-0 late in the second period, that was the end of goaltender Braden Holtby’s night. Coach Adam Oates planned to start Michal Neuvirth, but the backup being sick forced a change of plans and Holtby’s eighth straight start.
Once Holtby allowed four goals on 18 shots, 21-year-old Philipp Grubauer made his NHL debut.
“Obviously Holts had a great game last night, and not that I wasn’t worried about Holts tonight, but he’s gonna get it, and I haven’t seen Gruby enough, quite honestly,” Oates said Wednesday afternoon. “Not that he can’t handle it, but it’s a tough building and we’re on a little bit of a roll and I want to keep it going.”
But this wasn’t Holtby’s fault. Only Talbot’s goal could be pegged on the 23-year-old starter.
Instead this was a night that the Caps were lifeless, listless and lackluster in just about every area of the ice. They fell to 7-11-1 and remained in last place in the Southeast Division.