Lethargic. Listless. Use whatever word you want, it turned out to be a loss for the Capitals – their first home loss in regulation since Game 2 of the Flyers series in last season’s playoffs.
But the team’s smallest home crowd of the season (announced 16,792) did get into the action a bit, by booing the Caps in the third period of the 5-3 loss. Up to that point (before the Caps made in interesting late), they showed very little energy, and Boudreau said his team deserved that treatment.
“Anybody can make it close and play hard for seven minutes and say, ‘Wow, we were close.’ But it wasn’t a close game. They were dominating us to the point, where you’re undefeated at home and you’re getting booed, which probably was rightfully deserved at one point in the third period,” he said. “It was very visible to the people upstairs, to me and to the coaching staff that they were just plain outworking us. And that’s unacceptable.”
Unacceptable, sure, that’s another word for this one. Yes, the Caps are still 9-1-1 at Verizon Center this season and there isn’t reason to panic yet, but this wasn’t a night that Boudreau and his players tried to put a good face on the third-period comeback.
“The puck was bouncing a lot, but I don’t think that’s an excuse for tonight’s game. We just played stupid for a couple periods, and they got goals,” defenseman Sami Lepisto said. “I don’t know what was wrong. It just wasn’t the jump that we needed the first couple of periods. In the third, we got our chances and we scored, but it was too little, too late.”
OK, for those of you who didn’t see the game (and that number might be very high since it wasn’t on television), it was a game of bad bounces. The Caps got on the board when Nicklas Backstrom’s cross-ice pass hit Panthers defenseman Jay Bouwmeester and went in. Ville Peltonen tied it up. And then as the Caps are killing a penalty, a David Steckel pass hit Karl Alzner’s skate (with no Panthers players within 25 feet) and ricocheted past unprepared goalie Jose Theodore.
Steckel said he was trying to hit Shaone Morrisonn on a diagonal pass as Alzner was directing the play. It was a rough bounce that seemed to encapsulate the Caps’ fortunes Tuesday night.
And though Theodore wasn’t at his best (four goals on 21 shots), the Caps’ coach didn’t want to hoist a lot of blame on his netminder.
“It’s easy to look at fault; I thought he was like the rest of the team,” Boudreau said. “And the biggest problem is, when the goalie is like the rest of the team, he stands out like a sore thumb, but he probably wasn’t any worse than some of our players. But, because he’s the last line of defense, everybody sees it.”
Not to be grim, but it might have been for the best that no one saw the Caps’ performance on television and not many in the arena, either. Boudreau mentioned the quietness of the crowd early in the game, but they had little reason to be excited until the Caps made the game interesting late in the third.
Still, the Caps are still in first place in the Southeast Division. They return to Verizon Center on Thursday night to face the Islanders.
- Steve Whyno