OTTAWA — The moment came about midway through the Washington Capitals' 5-2 defeat to the Ottawa Senators: a perfectly executed odd-man rush and Craig Anderson robbed Marcus Johansson from point-blank range. The Caps just can't catch a break.
Or perhaps the moment came shortly after when Troy Brouwer received an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for arguing an offside call. Frustration keeps building.
Or maybe the moment came when they allowed the Senators' fourth goal of the evening and had to listen to another goal song with their heads down while skating to the bench.
"No matter how we play, even if we have a bad night, we've got to find ways to tie games and do right things because right now it's pretty awful," center Mathieu Perreault said.
Washington can't even get out of its own way, losing for the seventh time in 10 games and for the third time in row, this one another embarrassing performance but in a new setting, Scotiabank Place, on Wednesday night. Players and coach Dale Hunter blamed it all on another bad start: two Ottawa goals in the first 15 minutes.
"I don't know. Pucks went in early tonight," forward Matt Hendricks said. "When you give up that lead, like we did the past two games, it's tough, you give them up early like that. I don't really have any answers.
The Capitals finished the road trip 1-3, yet there was a bizarre sense of calm about this defeat. Hunter called out goaltender Tomas Vokoun (four goals on 11 shots) as he and players talked about the positives of scoring in the third to mount a comeback that ultimately fell short.
"I thought we had a lot of good shifts where we were cycling. We outshot them tonight, and I think we had a lot of good chances," right wing Troy Brouwer said. "They're coming and they're there and we're getting opportunities. But it's tough when you're down a couple goals. You grip your stick tight. You put a little too much pressure on yourself."
It was yet another missed opportunity to move into playoff position, as a victory would have put the Capitals in eighth in the Eastern Conference ahead of the floundering Toronto Maple Leafs.
"It just feels like we let each other down," Brouwer said. "It feels like we are just giving away points when we need to be playing real good hockey and trying to find ways to climb the standings."
Again, they couldn't climb anything. This time the Capitals were without Alex Ovechkin (lower-body injury), though it was similar to plenty of other road losses with the captain.
No, Wednesday night was not another isolated incident but rather the continuation of a painful, infuriating trend. With Ovechkin out, defenseman Karl Alzner drew up a blueprint of how to beat the Senators: score three goals, or at least the first one.
Instead, they dropped to 6-13-2 when surrendering the opening goal.
"The stats don't lie; whoever gets goals first [wins], and they jumped on us," Hunter said. "Tomas would like a few of them back. He wasn't as sharp as he should've been, and it was in the back of our net."
Anger might not have been present after a loss in which the Caps finally showed something — anything — in the third period, but the result and feeling of dejection were the same.
"I think what's hard is losing hockey games," Hendricks said.
And in doing so, it's becoming increasingly harder to envision this team making a run even if it manages to slip into the playoffs.
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