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Requiem for Capitals’ winning streak

Seven-game stretch was best start in franchise history

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VANCOUVER — Expecting perhaps a broken reflection on how the Capitals' seven-game winning streak came to an end Thursday, a Canadian reporter asked defenseman Karl Alzner how it felt to be the last team in the NHL to lose a game.

Less than 15 minutes removed from the 2-1 loss to the Edmonton Oilers, the wise-beyond-his-years Alzner already had perspective.

"I'm pretty happy about it. It's a good sign," he said. "We got a really good team here. We ran into a good team here that's on a high. We're really, really excited about the direction of this team right now."

That seems to be the appropriate requiem for this winning streak, a seven-game tear where the Caps became the best team in the league by riding depth and quality goaltending. It was the best start in franchise history and among the tops in NHL history.

The streak ended Thursday night at Rexall Place, though that was because of a combination of bad bounces, bad penalties, missed opportunities and a great opposing goaltender.

"It was a little tough like that. You can't always get the bounces," center Marcus Johansson said. "Sometimes the bounces are against you and you've got to work hard to get the win. I think we worked hard, but we couldn't get it in."

Bounces — or what goaltender Tomas Vokoun refers to as "puck luck," weren't happening for the Caps against the Oilers. They had been there during the streak, which included victories over the Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings.

In Edmonton, shots rang off the post and pucks that didn't flutter wide were swallowed up by Nikolai Khabibulin. Meanwhile, seven straight minor penalties on the Caps took away chances to control the game.

"I think you need breaks to win, but they made their own breaks, just like we've made our own breaks in the previous seven games," coach Bruce Boudreau said. "Bounces are part of the game. You get them or you don't get them. When you're doing the right things, you get the breaks. When you're maybe doing things you shouldn't be doing, you don't get the breaks."

For the first seven games of the season, the Caps scored 30 goals and allowed just 14. Michal Neuvirth started it with a stellar game against the Hurricanes, and Vokoun went 6-0-0 with a .944 save percentage to keep things rolling.

While the Caps effectively cycled through four lines and three defensive pairings and kept ice time generally balanced. Nicklas Backstrom led them with 10 points (two goals, eight assists), while the top goal-scorers were Johansson and third-liner Jason Chimera.

"The team's playing good," Boudreau said this week. "Nobody's playing better than anybody else. When you have everybody pulling in the right direction, usually good things happen."

He cautioned that Thursday everything could change "in a heartbeat." For one game it did, and the Caps experienced their first loss of the 2011-12 season.

And yet, the positive vibes from the winning streak remain.

"It's 82 games," right wing Joel Ward said. "I never thought we'd go 82-0."

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