WINNIPEG, Manitoba — This was a prime chance for the Washington Capitals to turn things around. After a couple defensive-oriented games, they came to Winnipeg to face a middling Jets team.
But instead of beating up on an inferior opponent, the Caps fell into the same patterns that have caused their recent slide. The result was a humbling, 4-1 loss at MTS Centre on Thursday night.
"We felt like we were a little too soft, we weren't winning the battles," defenseman Karl Alzner said. "It was just not a good effort by us. You can't do that. We're supposed to beat a team like this — one that's below .500. We're not doing that right now."
The Caps aren't doing a lot of things right now, and thus they're 1-4-1 in their last six and 3-6-1 in their last 10. Thursday night's defeat showcased so many of the same mistakes — from defensive-zone coverage to turnovers and penalties.
"They came out and they outplayed us. There were things that we could've done better — much better execution in our own end and coming out with puck," forward Jeff Halpern said. "We just didn't execute, we weren't in our spots and we brought that on ourselves the whole game — not going to our spots and not executing."
Turnovers led to the first two Winnipeg goals, both by Evander Kane. When Brooks Laich missed the net entirely on a two-on-none, short-handed break and the Jets scored a few seconds later, the crowd was pumping up the Jets even further.
John Erskine tried to change the tide with a fight, Bruce Boudreau with a timeout, but nothing worked.
"The best way to stop a crowd from cheering is not making stupid mistakes in your own zone and giving them opportunities to score," Boudreau said.
Instead, veteran defenseman Roman Hamrlik committed a tripping penalty. Kyle Wellwood scored on the power play on a scramble in front, and the Caps couldn't score on an ensuing five-on-three power play.
Alzner pointed to stretches of bad hockey, but it was prevalent throughout this loss.
"I think every team is going to go through that," forward Cody Eakin said. "That's when the character comes and the heart comes."
The miscues that have plagued the Caps since their game at the Edmonton Oilers surfaced in so many different ways Thursday. Michal Neuvirth allowed four goals on 24 shots, but Laich and Boudreau both said he was hung out to dry.
No, this one was on the team — a team loss that has the Caps wondering what has to happen next. Whatever that is, they know this losing trend can't continue.
"Obviously we got a bit of a reality check here: Three in a row and terrible in the last 10 games," Alzner said. "We've got to figure it out — soon."
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