The Ottawa Senators and Washington Capitals played hockey last night. Hockey lost.
In a game that may have set the sport back to the dark ages, Ottawa scored a franchise-record number of goals and crushed the Caps 11-5. Washington played in much the same horrible fashion it did during the 1970s when it was an expansion team and had an excuse.
There was no way to excuse such a dismal performance last night, and nobody tried afterward. The Caps were out of their element from just about the opening faceoff and lost the game from every conceivable angle.
The swift, young Senators took advantage of the slower Caps and dominated every aspect of the game. Washington was missing three of the defensemen who usually play Ken Klee, Calle Johansson and Brendan Witt and their top defensive forward, Steve Konowalchuk, and they might have made a difference. Two of them Johansson and Konowalchuk are out long term, and the team will have to learn to play without them.
“There’s no excuse for that. That’s the oldest excuse in the book,” coach Ron Wilson retorted when the subject of injuries was brought up. “The fact of the matter is there’s six guys on the ice who have to shoulder the blame when the other team scores.
“We’ve got to get back to basics and get the job done defensively. And we didn’t tonight. For large parts of the game we didn’t look like we knew what we were doing in our own end, and that’s very unlike our team. [Now] we’ll work on what we have to work on: defensive zone coverage.”
Wilson criticized his club for leaving both goalies with no defense. Olie Kolzig lasted one period and gave up five goals, none of which could be blamed on him. Craig Billington relieved and took the loss, mainly because his teammates abandoned him even more than they had Kolzig.
“Tonight our forwards up the ice didn’t play the [defensive] system that we play, the wedge, and we’ve got to work on getting back and helping our defense and goalie,” Wilson said. “You don’t want to embarrass your goalies, and that’s what happened tonight.”
Wilson blamed much of last night’s woeful display to what appeared to be an overwhelming desire by many of the team members to score goals, a distinct problem for the club lately. In doing so, they ignored all defensive responsibilities, and a slaughter resulted.
“Again, all we ever talk about is scoring goals, but you have to keep the other team from scoring,” he said. “We scored five goals, they scored 11. Yeah, we had some offense, but that’s not the point. You have to play defense in any league in order to win, and tonight we didn’t.”
Sergei Gonchar scored twice, Chris Simon scored for the second straight game, Matt Pettinger got his first NHL goal and Sylvain Cote recorded his second of the season, but the total was still six goals short of a tie.
Seven Senators scored for Ottawa.
“It’s embarrassing, it’s that simple,” Billington said.
“We all have to look in the mirror and ask ourselves what we need to do to be part of the solution and then go out and work on that. That’s what professionals do.”
“These are the kind of games that show a team what they’re made of,” Kolzig said.
“If we let this eat at us right now it’s going to be a long, long season.”