VANCOUVER — The end of the Washington Capitals‘ seven-game winning streak to start this season came Thursday night in an odd game that featured a lot of penalties and fine play by Edmonton Oilers goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin.
But the prevailing feeling around the team Friday was that it “dominated” long stretches of the game — even if it wound up as a loss on the calendar.
“Some nights you don’t play good and you win,” goaltender Tomas Vokoun said. “Does that make it OK? Or if you play good and you lose, should you feel bad? I think that’s why you’ve got to look at it what happens and how it happens.”
The Caps chose the part where they were feeling good, loose and relaxed as they practiced at Rogers Arena in preparation for Saturday’s opponent, the Vancouver Canucks. Instead of thinking about the one defeat, players and coach Bruce Boudreau are focusing on the seven victories and their high level of play.
“This league is so tough that anybody you can have a start like we had, I think it’s a positive thing,” Boudreau said. “But it’s something you can’t be complacent with because every time you look around the corner there’s another good team coming at you.”
Such is the case with Vancouver, so the Caps know they can’t be complacent. But they’re also not a tight team, either.
At Friday’s practice, the laughs and smiles betrayed Thursday’s disappointment and presented a marked change from the postgame locker room atmosphere in Edmonton.
“I didn’t want them to feel down and depressed,” Boudreau said. “We were depressed as all get out last night. If you saw the dressing room after the game we were lower than low. But if you keep getting low after one loss, then where else do you go? You’ve got to build yourself up, and we showed a lot of positive stuff today and we know how good the opponent is [Saturday] and it’s a great challenge.”
Much of the positivity draws from the 2-1 loss to the Oilers. That’s because the Caps surrendered only 11 shots five-on-five, controlled the play for the vast majority of the third period and created plenty of offense.
“You know what, we didn’t play bad game. We took some bad penalties, but overall I think we play [well],” Vokoun said. “Nine out of 10 games you would win. We just didn’t have puck luck and their goalie play well and make some big saves.”
The Caps hope they don’t have to play 10 games like that in the near future, but they’d settle for eight victories in nine attempts to start the year.
In that vein, it appears they’ve legitimately almost forgotten that the winning streak was snapped and have moved on to thinking about bigger and better things ahead — starting Saturday against the defending Western Conference-champion Canucks.
“It’s not end of the world. We have lots and lots of games left, and we’ve just got to make sure we stay and do the right things,” Vokoun said. “I’m sure the results will be there.”
Notes: Boudreau said he doubts Mike Green will play against Vancouver, instead pointing toward next weekend for a possible return. … Vokoun will start in goal vs. the Canucks, who turn again to Roberto Luongo.
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