The sting of Sunday’s loss could take some time to fade.
The Washington Capitals led 5-1, gave up five straight goals in regulation and lost to the Anaheim Ducks 6-5, ruining a seven-game winning streak in the process.
But the Capitals left the loss behind them and flew to Las Vegas, the site of their Stanley Cup-clinching victory five months ago. Tuesday’s game against the Vegas Golden Knights at T-Mobile Arena marks their first visit back as a team, though they surely won’t be in the mood to party.
“Obviously, that’s a special place for us, but if there’s a blessing in disguise it’s this game happened right before it,” Braden Holtby said. “So now we know we have to focus on the game we’re going to play and not worry about what happened in the past. It’s these games that are after these ones that show the true character of your group, and that’s one that we’re going to push forward to put our best game on the ice there.”
Coach Todd Reirden said he was “already selling that message with our group.”
“That’s on our leadership and our staff to get ourselves ready after a long flight,” Reirden said Sunday. “We’ll get on the ice (Monday) and try to get ourselves readjusted to the time schedule out that way. We’ll skate (Monday) in Vegas and then a morning skate and be ready to go in a memorable building for us, for sure. So, that can hopefully help us push forward past a tough loss.”
Asked last week about memories of Game 5 of the Stanley Cup and the ensuing celebration, Matt Niskanen had trouble pinning down one favorite.
“Lots of really funny things (happened),” Niskanen said. “We have a unique group of guys on our team. It makes it a lot of fun. There were some things that happened that were pretty great but probably should remain private.”
Soon, Niskanen chose the initial aftermath, when the entire organization celebrated in the dressing room.
“When we first brought the Cup into the dressing room, having our first beverage in a couple months and spraying (champagne) and singing and dancing, was pretty special. I’ll remember that forever,” he said.
This is not the first Capitals-Knights rematch since the Stanley Cup Final. They met in Washington a week into the new season, and the Capitals won 5-2.
The Golden Knights are a middle-of-the-pack Western Conference team at 14-13-1. They are not taking opponents by surprise the way they did in their inaugural year, nor are visitors talking about the so-called “Vegas Flu” this time around.
The Vegas Flu was a theory that teams who stayed the night in Las Vegas before playing the Golden Knights would go on to lose — and often look lackluster in doing so. The theory goes that some players spent too much time at the poker table or a show on the Strip the night before.
The Capitals practiced at T-Mobile Arena Monday and will stay the night in Sin City. But if there’s one team that ought to be immune to the Vegas Flu, it’s the team that hoisted its first Stanley Cup the last time it had a business trip there.
“This is a new year,” Alex Ovechkin said. “Of course when you coming back, you’re going to have memories. You’re going to have smile on your face. But as soon as the game starts, it’s a different day.”