The Washington Capitals were not happy, even though they left Verizon Center on Saturday night with their seventh straight victory and two valuable points.
What they did in blowing a lead to the Tampa Bay Lightning was much more of a concern in the aftermath of a 6-5 overtime win than snatching this one back after a four-goal lead evaporated.
“We got the two points, but how we play in the third period, we can’t do like that,” captain Alex Ovechkin said. “We can’t give team that skilled that kind of opportunities out there. It’s just embarrassing.”
Words like embarrassing would have been just the start had the Caps lost in regulation or overtime. Instead, they could take solace in their 11th win in the past 13 games that pushed them to 48 points, four up on the Winnipeg Jets in the Southeast Division with six to play.
But the mood in the locker room was far from celebratory.
“We feel good that we got two points, but we don’t feel good about how close we made it,” defenseman Jack Hillen said. “Sometimes when you get a big lead, the game’s really hard to play. And we didn’t do a great job of staying in it. We tried, but we didn’t do a great job. And then we got the two points in overtime, and that’s all that matters.”
But for months coach Adam Oates has emphasized the method over the madness of this 48-game season. Because of that, coughing up a four-point lead by allowing four goals in 18:22 is a large part of what the Caps took away from Saturday night.
“You’ve got to keep your foot on the gas,” left wing Jason Chimera said. “Anytime you have that kind of lead, no matter what I think you tend to put your foot off the gas a bit for some reason. You can’t do that in this league.”
In the eyes of history, it’s the first time the Caps blew a four-goal lead since Dec. 11, 2006, according to STATS. That game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, Washington lost 5-4 in a shootout. This one didn’t get that far because of defenseman Mike Green’s second straight game-winning goal, a laser on the power play 2:59 into overtime.
“They were giving me the shots on that power play. And then I just had to take it. I just had to be confident shooting the puck,” Green said. “But it [stinks]. That last goal there, that could have cost us the game. Not that it was one person’s fault or anything, but that shouldn’t happen. And the five guys that are on the ice have to take responsibility for these goals and collectively as a group we need to address this.”
Green was talking about Teddy Purcell’s goal with 2:35 left in the third period that completed the Caps’ collapse. They had taken a 5-1 lead with 14:34 left in the second period when Eric Fehr beat Tampa Bay goalie Mathieu Garon.
But that was the beginning of the end of the Caps’ easy night. Oates said it was “human nature” to let up a little with that big of a lead.
“You get a four-goal lead, you think the game’s over,” Chimera said. “Then the teams play a little looser and away they go. They had a couple chances to score and then you’re on your heels a bit, and when you’re on your heels it’s never good.”
“When a team does get behind that much, they play so reckless, and you’re not trained to handle of reckless team,” the Caps’ coach said. “The D jump in at crazy situations, and you’re not really trained to do that. If the game’s a more normal game at the start, they wouldn’t have played so crazy. But I’m not trying to use that as an excuse, it’s just hard sometimes.”