NEWARK, N.J. — The end result was a 4-3 shootout loss for the Washington Capitals who emerged with a point against the New Jersey Devils that for at least the first period and a half it looked like they didn't deserve.
"I don't think everybody [gave] 100-percent effort tonight," goaltender Michal Neuvirth said. "I think we only played 20 minutes, and that's not enough to win a hockey game in this league."
Neuvirth admitted the Caps made a "huge comeback," but his focus and that of his teammates was largely on how things went wrong for the first two periods Friday night at Prudential Center as New Jersey jumped out to a 3-0 lead and dominated. If it wasn't for Neuvirth, things could've gotten very ugly.
Jason Chimera, whose two goals cut the deficit to one, and then tied the score in the third, wasn't too kind when talking about his team's start.
"We weren't ready to play. I don't know if guys were looking forward to the Christmas break or what was wrong. But the execution was terrible," he said. "We looked like Pee Wee hockey players. No one could make a pass. No one was getting the puck out. We were fanning on the puck."
Pucks were hitting the post, and the Caps were committing turnovers, too. Allowing the Devils too much open space, New Jersey treated it like pond hockey and was able to pour it on with three goals in 7 minutes, 48 seconds.
Defenseman Karl Alzner pointed out that perhaps complacency kicked in after an impressive performance earlier in the week against Nashville.
"The reason we were down is we beat ourselves in the first two periods," Alzner said. "We went from playing a really solid style of game against Nashville to thinking, 'Oh maybe we're back on the winning train. Let's just do that.' So we kind of got away from our game. That's what happened — we shot ourselves in the foot."
Earlier this month the Caps had a similar game at the Florida Panthers, falling way behind after two before mounting a furious third-period comeback. That ended with a 5-4 regulation loss and perhaps a lesson of what needs to happen to at least force overtime.
"We played more desperate, and we just went and we had nothing to lose. The guys worked hard," coach Dale Hunter said. "We have a break now — they wanted to throw everything at them, and they did."
In the shootout, Martin Brodeur stoned Alex Ovechkin and Ilya Kovalchuk, and Patrik Elias scored to send the Capitals into the Christmas break and two days off on a losing note.
With the point, the Caps have something to show for their trip to Newark but not the smiles that a full comeback and victory would have provided.
"You never like to lose," Hunter said. "It's a shootout, and you've got a chance to grab another point, and we lost it."
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