- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Washington Capitals coach Glen Hanlon said he hoped his players had put Monday’s devastating 5-4 shootout loss to Pittsburgh in the past before they even left the rink.

For some fans, however, the stench of that humbling defeat will linger for quite some time.

Washington took a commanding 4-0 lead in the nationally televised game, six minutes into the second period. Then, the Caps appeared to stop playing, possibly feeling the contest was out of reach.

Pittsburgh persevered. The Penguins scored three times in the second, including twice in 35 seconds near the end of the period. They tied the game in the third and won in the shootout, a portion of the game where the Caps have gone 0-5 this season, scoring one goal in 13 chances.

“We just lost our focus, got up 4-1 and lost our focus,” Hanlon said yesterday after putting the team through a lengthy practice at Capitals Iceplex in Arlington.

“We’re just trying to learn you start at 7 o’clock and play until 9:30,” he said in reference to the team’s long-standing habit of not playing a complete, 60 minute game.

Rarely, however, has relaxing one’s guard a little proved so damaging. The Caps were dominating the game completely, outshooting the Penguins 21-11 and controlling the faceoff circles, holding a lopsided edge in hits. Then, they collapsed.

“We’ve got some young players who in the course of 21/2 hours are going to make some mistakes,” Hanlon said. “We just have to say, ‘The goal went in, the goal was scored, we were playing well until 10 seconds ago, let’s not change our whole approach.’ ”

That was a reference to Maxime Talbot’s goal, which came just 54 seconds after Brooks Laich gave the Caps a 4-0 lead.

“I’m disappointed in the time of the game when that happened,” Hanlon said of the Penguins’ two goals to end the period. “There was [1:52] left in the second and we were up 4-1. Boom, boom, we just had to get out of there.

“It bothered me because it was such a hyped-up game. It was an exciting game. It was such a big stage, playing on national TV, we had the Crosby-Ovechkin situation, it was an exciting game to play and I didn’t want to come out on the short end.”

Hanlon admitted his team is not the stingy defensive power he would like, and that this is an on-going learning process.

“We have to learn we’re not the top defensive team in the league,” he said, thinking perhaps that some team personnel may have thought they had the ability to hold off an onslaught with little effort. “Edmonton won lots of championships and they weren’t first in the league in goals-against. There’s a pretty good chance we’re going to score four goals and we’re not going to win 4-0. It’s just the way we are.”

The talk then shifted to tomorrow night’s game against Atlanta, a team that already has beaten the Caps four times this season.

“We spoke to them after the [Pittsburgh] game about what went wrong and that was it,” he said. “We’re trying to get our act together for [Atlanta].”

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