Moments after the Washington Capitals’ first regulation loss of the season, coach Bruce Boudreau had some harsh words for his defense corps, his goaltender, his third and fourth lines and even the guys on the power play.
There was plenty of blame to go around on this night, and Boudreau wasn’t happy about it.
The generous New York Rangers offered up nine power-play opportunities and a fluky dump-in goal, but the Caps, disjointed in their own end and with the extra man, could not take advantage in a 4-3 loss Thursday night at surprisingly less-than-full Verizon Center.
“We played as individuals instead of as a unit, and that’s what happens,” Boudreau said. “That’s what we talked about between periods. If you’re going to play like individuals, you’re going to get individual results - nothing is going to happen.”
Nicklas Backstrom forged a one-goal lead in the final period for the Caps with a pair of tallies, but Rangers star Marian Gaborik answered with two of his own. Washington goaltender Jose Theodore was great early in the contest but ended up yielding some goals he would like to have back.
After a lackluster second period, Backstrom got a big assist from Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist to tie the score at 2-2 early in the third. Backstrom dumped the puck toward the net from one step in front of the red line, but Lundqvist was unable to stop the bouncing puck at 3:17.
Backstrom gave the Caps a brief lead at 7:51 with a power-play goal. He ripped a one-timer from Brooks Laich into the top right corner of the net for Washington’s first extra-man goal of the evening in eight chances.
“It was a tight game, but I think they wanted to win a little bit more than us,” Backstrom said. “Especially in the third period when they came back right away.”
Gaborik responded for the Rangers 18 seconds later with a shot from the top of the circles that squeezed through Theodore. Less than three minutes later, Gaborik rifled one through Theodore from almost the same spot to put New York back in front.
“Anytime you have the lead [late] in the third period, you have to [win],” Boudreau said. “If you’re going to be a good team, you have to [win]. We’ve blown two leads now like that and almost a third in four games. It’s a really upsetting trend that better stop in a hurry.”
The Rangers took the lead with a pair of second-period tallies. Ryan Callahan leveled the score at 1-1 8:47 into the middle period with a backhander on a breakaway.
Washington had a four-on-three and went with four forwards (Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Semin, Backstrom and Brendan Morrison), but the Rangers had a two-on-one and Callahan’s breakaway in a matter of seconds. Semin’s cross-ice pass missed Ovechkin near the offensive blue line to help spring Callahan.
Ales Kotalik made it 2-1 a little more than two minutes later. Artem Anisimov hit Kotalik cutting toward the net, and he was able to backhand a shot in tight quarters off Theodore and into the net.
Boudreau said all five players in front of Theodore made a mistake on the play.
Semin put the Caps in front with the lone goal of the first period. He stripped Rangers defenseman Michal Rozsival of the puck in the neutral zone and then gave it to Brian Pothier near the top of the offensive zone.
Pothier skated backward with the puck to the outside of the left faceoff circle before sending a cross-ice pass back to Semin, who sneaked toward the right post and put home the one-timer at 9:18.
Still, this night proved to be a sour one for the home team regardless of how many chances the Rangers provided.
“The guys that are making mistakes are not first-year guys,” Boudreau said. “They’re guys who have been in the league for 10 years, five years and six years, and that’s been what their jobs are. They know what their jobs are, and we just have to go do it.”