- The Washington Times - Monday, December 26, 2011

BUFFALO, N.Y. — It wasn’t over in nine seconds, but it all went downhill before a lot of fans at First Niagara Center could even settle into their seats.

Nicklas Backstrom won the opening faceoff — a good start — and the Washington Capitals possessed the puck. But Roman Hamrlik sailed it over the glass, and with 19:51 on the clock, the Buffalo Sabres went to the power play.

Soon after, they had the lead and the Caps had problems.

“We took a penalty nine seconds into the game and got scored on right away,” forward Troy Brouwer said. “Not a lot of things went right from the start of the game.”

Things snowballed all the way to a 4-2 loss that doesn’t even begin to tell the story of how bad things went for the Caps. But it all came back to the penalty.

“That kind of start unacceptable, especially when you take a penalty right away,” captain Alex Ovechkin said.

This was Hamrlik’s 10th minor penalty of the season. It couldn’t have come at a worse time, with the Caps trying to get their legs after two days off and a once-in-a-blue-moon day-of-game flight. Players didn’t want to use the Christmas break as an excuse, but the early trip to the penalty box and consequences made a long day even longer.

“It’s one of those things where power-play goals and you’ve got to stay out of the box and we have to come out better and make better decisions with the puck,” coach Dale Hunter said. “I think we came out with energy, but we made bad decisions, but bad decisions cost you goals, and that’s what happened.”