SUNRISE, Fla. — As the final seconds ticked off the clock, the Washington Capitals were attacking. They had turned a blowout into a nail-biter for the Florida Panthers and came perilously close to tying the score and salvaging a point that looked almost impossible in the second period.
But ultimately, they fell short. It'll go down as a loss in the standings.
“Emphasize that the best thing is that you battle back, and the key is to come back and you're one shot away, and we had great chances right at the end to tie it up,” coach Dale Hunter said.
And while a few players agreed with their coach about “character” and drawing from the comeback, Brooks Laich made it clear that there was no silver lining to be found Monday night at BankAtlantic Center.
“It's not acceptable to play hockey for 20 minutes and not execute for the other 40,” he said. “We're not here to try; we're here to win. If you want to be a professional, you judge yourself by your results, not by your intentions.”
The Caps fell behind 5-1 at the 12:11 mark of the second period. Tomas Fleischmann and Stephen Weiss made the Washington defense look helpless.
“We were all kind of watching Fleischmann do his thing out there, and that's what happens,” Alzner said. “In the first period we weren't as good as we can be. There was a few too many odd-man rushes and they were making plays around us. It was just not a very good effort from us in the first two.”
That's Laich's point. The Caps did make things interesting with a second-period goal from Cody Eakin and then one each from Laich and Jason Chimera to turn up the pressure on the first-place Panthers.
Chimera and defenseman Karl Alzner admitted Florida sat back, though the push-back was something that had been missing in similar situations lately.
“We haven't really done that much this year. We came in the third and [Mike Knuble] kind of reminded us that we're ea team that normally we can do that, and we haven't done it and we've got to show some pride here and a little bit of character,” Alzner said. “It is something we can draw on.”
Said Matt Hendricks: “We battled back tonight. We took too many penalties and they were able to bounce on their opportunities. But other than that, I thought we battled hard in the third tonight.”
Hunter was talking positive about the push-back.
“Definitely they got three power-play goals on us – that hurt. But as far as the game, we battled,” he said. “We came back in the third. One inches away from tying it up. The boys showed a lot of character that way – and grit where good things will happen if you keep that up.”
A few minutes earlier, just outside a visiting locker room that could be characterized as angry despite the comeback, Laich wasn't trying to paint the same optimistic portrait.
“Our effort – we have to have a third-period effort in the first period and run that for 60 minutes,” he said. “What we're doing right now is not acceptable.”
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