- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 2, 2014

Again and again they happen, seemingly without reason.

The Washington Capitals understand that they can’t continue to surrender goals after scoring them if they hope to win games. After their 21st and 22nd of the season on Thursday in a 4-3 overtime loss to the Carolina Hurricanes, their frustrations are reaching a boiling point.

“To be honest, it’s sort of embarrassing,” said Brooks Laich, who made his return to the lineup after missing his last three games because of a groin injury. “I mean, you score a goal, you stick to your rules that next shift: You get the puck, you get it in deep. That way, their bench is in some disarray, their coach is on them saying we’re outworking them, and then your decisions with and without the puck, you have to be sharp in that instance. What was it, two tonight that we gave up quickly after a goal? It’s not acceptable.”

Carolina right wing Jeff Skinner scored three goals, including the overtime winner, as the Capitals (20-15-6) lost their third consecutive game. 

The first, 1:44 into the second period, came 55 seconds after Washington tied the score at 1. Alex Ovechkin’s wrister on a breakaway was answered by the Hurricanes’ Manny Malhotra, who lifted a wrister of his own into the far side of the net from the bottom of the right circle.

Troy Brouwer then scored his ninth goal of the season to force a 2-2 tie, and then, 3:54 into the period, Washington took the 3-2 lead when Steve Oleksy’s shot was deflected into the net off the glove of defenseman Ron Hainsey.

That lead didn’t last, either. Forty seconds later, Skinner scored his second goal after corralling a high rebound.

Coach Adam Oates, forced to address the situation yet again after the game, said merely that the quick-response goals are the result of mistakes by veteran players who “know better.”

“You go on the ice after a goal, your responsibility is to keep that momentum for us, and that’s every line, that’s the defensemen,” said Laich, who was on the ice for neither of the Hurricanes’ goals but was there for Oleksy’s. “We’re aware of it. It’s talked about on the bench. For whatever reason, we are not executing it. I’m sick and tired of talking about it, to be honest. It’s something that’s causing us to lose hockey games, costing us wins.”

Skinner, who entered with two goals in the previous three games against the Capitals, scored his first goal 13:27 into the game when the Hurricanes (16-16-9) faced a 5-on-3 advantage. With center Nicklas Backstrom’s stick broken, left wing Alexander Semin sent the puck down to Skinner on the right, who was able to lift it from a sharp angle past Philipp Grubauer and into the back side of the net.

Skinner then finished his second career hat trick with a goal 1:20 into overtime. Ovechkin attempted an ill-advised pass in transition to defenseman Dmitry Orlov, who couldn’t handle it and turned it over.

Malhotra gained possession and passed it to Murphy, who streaked up the right side and fed Skinner on the left with defenseman Mike Green caught in the middle and unable to break up the play.

“[Orlov] shouldn’t go there,” Oates said. “He’s a kid caught up in the moment, the excitement of the crowd, and the rush. The puck maybe was gonna come to him, but he should recognize it’s not. You know, that’s – it’s a mistake. OK. To me, it’s a mistake that we’ll fix.”

The Capitals failed to convert on their only power play opportunity, which came 1:20 into the first period, and went 3-for-4 on the penalty kill. The Hurricanes were close to adding another power play goal with 3:05 remaining in the second period, but when defenseman Ryan Murphy wrapped around the back of the net and caught Grubauer out of place, Capitals defenseman John Carlson was able to sneak the blade of his stick in the way of Murphy’s easy try.

Grubauer, making his fifth consecutive start, had 29 saves. Khudobin, in only his fourth appearance of the year, had 38.

After 41 games, the Capitals only have 10 regulation victories. Picking up the point by forcing the game to overtime is helpful, but the team can’t continue on that pace if it hopes to gain ground in the division in the second half.

“There’s been lots of ways we lost games, but you know, we’re also in every single game,” Oates said. “We’ve had one blowout in 30, 25 games. You know, we’re doing some things well. We’ve just got to refine the details.”

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