- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 8, 2009

No defenseman is going to play more than 700 NHL games, as Tom Poti has, or nearly 300, as John Erskine has, without having a bad night every now and then.

Poti and Erskine were on the ice for five of Philadelphia’s goals in the Washington Capitals’ 6-5 overtime loss Tuesday night, but how much they were to blame was debatable at practice Wednesday. More important, how defensemen are able to move forward without dwelling on a previous contest can be an undervalued skill.

“We’re going to be out there for goals for and against, but you can’t let it affect you,” defenseman Shaone Morrisonn said. “Everybody has those games. I don’t think you can pinpoint them on all those goals being their fault or anything like that. It is just a stat. We lost the game, and that’s all that matters.”

Despite coach Bruce Boudreau’s penchant for rotating defensive pairings, Poti and Erskine haven’t played much together - and rarely at even strength - in the past two seasons. As it turned out, most of their problems didn’t happen at even strength anyway.

Three of those five goals came with Philadelphia on the power play. Another happened on a delayed penalty call during which the Flyers had sent out an extra attacker. And the goaltending from Semyon Varlamov was substandard.

All reasons to lessen the ire directed at the pair, but Boudreau still expected more from them.

“I told both of them today that I’ve seen them play a lot better,” Boudreau said. “One of them was in denial, and one said, ‘Yeah, I was horrible.’ Then I reiterated to the one who was in denial that it wasn’t very good. I think they get it, and deep down they know they’ve played a lot better and we’re counting on them to play better.”

There was little either player could do on the first three goals for which they were on the ice. The first was a great slap pass from Matt Carle to Mike Richards, who took advantage of Varlamov being too aggressive and not being able to get back for the bad-angle shot.

The second was a shot from the right point that Erskine screened the goaltender on a bit, but he was trying to keep Jeff Carter out of Varlamov’s way. The third was another shot from Richards that Varlamov should have stopped.

Poti inadvertently aided in putting the fourth one behind Jose Theodore. Braydon Coburn’s shot from the point was stopped by Theodore, but it bounced off Poti and back at the goaltender, who knocked it backward into the net while trying to cover it up.

“The puck went up and over [the net], and I beat my guy back to the net in case there was a rebound or something,” Poti said. “I had my stick on the ice to clear it if I saw it. He made the kick save, and it went right off my stick - I didn’t have a chance to react or see it at all.

“I definitely didn’t have my best game. Obviously, in those situations there is nothing you can do. I wouldn’t have changed what I did. There were a couple of bad bounces and a couple of PK goals they made good plays on.”

Erskine was next to Danny Briere when he was able to chip a rebound just under the crossbar for the winning goal with 1:08 left in overtime. There was a scramble after Carter tried to stuff the puck in near the left post, and then a slap shot came from the left point.

“The last goal, I should have knocked Briere on his butt, but I didn’t get the chance to do it,” Erskine said. “I just have to come out and have a stronger game [Thursday].

“I took a couple of bad penalties, but I don’t think I made too many mistakes. I was on for a lot of goals, but I don’t think you can say, ‘Just because you were on for a lot of goals it means you had a bad game.’ There are some situations where it’s not your fault.”