Everything was working in the Washington Capitals’ favor. Despite an injury to leading scorer Nicklas Backstrom, they were rolling along thanks to an advantageous home schedule against four straight opponents who played the day before.
Tuesday it all came to a crashing thud with a 3-0 loss to the New York Islanders at Verizon Center — a listless performance that taught the Caps yet another lesson about how quickly things can go terribly wrong.
“Maybe getting a little overconfident. That would be one of the only things I can think about,” defenseman Karl Alzner said. “It wasn’t good. It wasn’t enough effort against this team. Maybe we’re thinking this is the New York Islanders when they play us hard every single time we play them. It was definitely the wrong mindset we had.”
That mindset led to a listless, disinterested performance and the first time the Caps have been shut out at home this season. Evgeni Nabokov made a few nice saves for New York, but he only faced 17 shots and many were not great scoring chances.
Meanwhile, Tomas Vokoun (28 saves) was solid and earned compliments from coach Dale Hunter; but he couldn’t do much to save his team on this night.
“We didn’t score goal. Obviously that hurt the most. You can’t win when you don’t score goals. It was all-around, we didn’t play good,” Vokoun said. “You would think team coming here that played last night, team who’s back in standings we’re going to be putting pressure on them and make it a long night for them. That wasn’t the case.”
Instead, the Caps looked like a team playing its fourth game in seven days. Energy was lacking from the onset, with the young Islanders looking nothing like a group that lost Monday at home to the Nashville Predators.
All it took was a penalty by Alzner to open the door for the Islanders to get on the board, but the problem went beyond a parade to the box.
“I don’t know why, but we … don’t have energy. There’s not that action,” captain Alex Ovechkin said. “We had only [five] shots in first period. That’s not our game. We need to make more shots on net and create some opportunity in front of him.”
It took until the Caps were down 2-0 very late in the second to even see a burst from a team that is in desperate need of any points they can get. Matt Hendricks said he and his teammates were “flat.”
“We didn’t come out with the energy we needed; we didn’t come out with the tenacity,” the forward said. “We know where the standings are and where we sit right now. It wasn’t a very good effort, that’s for sure.”
Others decried a lack of effort, too, but answers were lacking. It was hard to explain why the Caps put up so little of a fight against the last-place Islanders, especially at home where they had played so well for the vast majority of the season.
And even though the play over the past few games wasn’t perfect, to end the home stand on such a sour note was not what any of the Caps had hoped for.
“In our own building to get shut out like that is a tough one to take for sure,” forward Joel Ward said.