PHILADELPHIA | Blame it on fatigue. Blame it on a horrid start. Blame it on a lack of effort.
“You know, it’s our first bad game in a while, and I think it was all of us,” coach Adam Oates said. “I think we looked a little tired, and we didn’t have enough fight to fight back through them. I think it’s a little bit of a product of the league right now because of the lockout, the schedule. I think teams are tired, and we’ll chalk it up to that and find ways to work on stuff.”
In the second half of back-to-back games and after a night of travel, players looked gassed just about from the get-go. Claude Giroux scored 23 seconds in, and the Caps had little push-back the rest of the way.
“Just got outworked,” defenseman Karl Alzner said.” It definitely seemed like we played the night before. Mentally and physically [we] just weren’t going.”
If Tuesday night’s victory over the Carolina Hurricanes was an example of the Caps running on all cylinders, Wednesday’s night’s disaster was the equivalent of stalling at the first shift of a gear. That they managed not to get shut out for the first time this season was a product of Joel Ward’s goal in garbage time, and that they weren’t beaten more soundly was a result of rookie Philipp Grubauer’s strong play in relief.
Those were the bright spots. There wasn’t much else.
“I think it was a tough start from our side,” center Nicklas Backstrom said. “They scored on first shift and then power play goal at the first chance too. We looked like we didn’t have a lot today, unfortunately.”
Not really in any aspect of the game. There were breakdowns on the first two goals, and the Caps allowed more than one on the power play for the first time since Feb. 7 at the Pittsburgh Penguins
That was the last time Washington was so thoroughly skated out of an arena. But this time the Caps could, at least for the time being, chalk it up to fatigue.
“Maybe tired? But it’s blame on us. We shouldn’t start like that,” captain Alex Ovechkin said. “You just have to stick to the plan. But maybe tired. Maybe we just don’t have that kind of jump like we have couple games.”
Oates used a controversial hit by Flyers forward Harry Zolnierczyk on Mathieu Perreault to make a point about his team’s performance. Zolnierczyk was given five minutes for kneeing and a game misconduct, but the Caps’ coach had no issue with the hit.
“I don’t think it was dirty at all. I think it’s a product of our whole game, quite honestly,” Oates said. “Thirty seconds left, the game is over and Matty thought he could stick-handle through the team. It’s not what we do: all of us tonight, you know, guys are sitting there waiting for you, and you get hit.”
Perreault was fine, but the Caps were battered and bruised, at least mentally, by a defeat that stunted some momentum build up by five victories in seven games. They fell to 7-11-1 and remained in last place in the Southeast Division.
“It’s not what we wanted, obviously, but it’s in the past now and all we can do is move forward right now,” starting goaltender Braden Holtby said. “There’s a lot of things we can learn from tonight. They’re a strong team, they’re a good test, and we’ll have to perform better next time.”
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