RALEIGH, N.C. — Matt Hendricks and Troy Brouwer dropped the gloves and tried to go down fighting. Too bad the rest of the Washington Capitals went down without a fight well before that.
Or barely showed up.
On Monday night in yet another crucial game, the Caps lacked just about any element that could lead to road success. It was an empty effort that led to a humiliating 5-0 loss at RBC Center to the last-place Carolina Hurricanes.
“Embarrassing effort, right from the start,” a steaming Brouwer said. “We weren’t ready to play, gave up chances, gave the puck away, didn’t get the puck in deep. Just all-around embarrassing.”
It was the kind of game that ordinarily gets coaches fired, similar to performances at the Winnipeg Jets and Toronto Maple Leafs in November that ultimately cost Bruce Boudreau his job. It was the most lopsided defeat of Dale Hunter’s tenure.
“I think it was pretty bad play by our team,” captain Alex Ovechkin said. “We didn’t get any shots on net, we didn’t get any puck deep. We don’t cycle it, and we don’t play our game.”
The Caps knew going in, just as they’ve known for a while, the importance of getting the first goal. Not only did the Caps not score first, but they allowed two Hurricanes goals in the first 5:09, the first a result of a big rebound and the second the result of a turnover by Marcus Johansson.
Seven shots, two goals and goaltender Tomas Vokoun’s night was swiftly over.
Hunter hoped the switch would “change momentum” and provide a spark. It wasn’t there.
“Just the game itself should’ve led to a spark,” forward Jeff Halpern said. “But it wasn’t Tomas, the whole team was just bad.”
But the Caps’ rough night was just getting under way. They fell behind 3-0 by the end of the first and were getting outskated and outworked by a team with nothing to play for.
Every game has so much value for Washington now, amid a chase for a playoff spot and a Southeast Division title. There are still 23 games left, but the Caps team that took the ice Monday night doesn’t look like one that belongs in a tournament for the Stanley Cup.
Monday night’s showing was certainly troubling, not just because of one night’s result but because of the recent trend of losing.
“We’re not in a playoff spot. Of course there’s concern,” Halpern said. “We still have confidence, but of course there’s concern.
This group fell to 10-17-3 on the road with their second straight shutout loss to the Hurricanes in Raleigh. They failed to make up ground on the first-place Florida Panthers, who have lost three straight.