The Capitals said they had enough offensive chances to beat the Boston Bruins on Sunday and with 36 shots their most in nearly two months maybe they were right.
They said Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas was the difference in a 4-1 loss and with 35 saves, maybe they were right.
But if the Capitals are serious about making the playoffs for a fifth straight spring theyll need to take a closer look in the mirror and see that the little things win and lose hockey games.
Most of those little things were evident in Sundays loss to the Bruins, which left the Capitals in ninth place in the Eastern Conference standings, one point behind the Southeast Division-leading Florida Panthers, who come to the Verizon Center Tuesday night in what can be billed as the biggest regular season game of the season.
But before we get ahead of ourselves its worth breaking down Sundays loss.
The Caps outshot the Bruins 36-30, but 15 of those shots came in the third period after the Bruins had built a 2-0 lead. The Caps also blocked 28 shots and forced the Bruins to miss the net 15 times. But that only means the Bruins had more attempts at the net (73) than the Caps (55).
Like most hockey games, Sundays was decided by mistakes in the defensive zone.
We had chances and we didnt score, defenseman Dennis Wideman said. We had a couple breakdowns and they took advantage.
The first came when Jeff Schultz and Wideman got crossed up on a two-on-two against Rich Peverley and Milan Lucic. When Peverley and and Lucic cross-crossed, Schultz stayed with Peverley and Wideman allowed Lucic to slip behind him for a tap-in and a 1-0 lead midway through the first period.
Two-on-twos, they shouldnt get in the zone period, Capitals coach Dale Hunter said. We back in, and that creates confusion. We definitely shouldnt be getting mixed up and its in our net.
The Bruins made it 2-0 with 1:22 left in the first period when Patrice Bergeron won a battle behind the net with Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner, getting the puck to Brad Marchand, who worked his way past John Carlson to beat Tomas Vokoun with a bad angle shot just inside the far post.
You have to make sure you have your guy, Hunter said. Unfortunately, if you lose your guy for a second, its in the net, and thats what happened.
The Bruins made it 3-0 at the 6:38 mark of the third period on another casual play by the Capitals. This time it was Marcus Johansson who swung by Marchand in the defensive zone, allowing him to hit Tyler Seguin for a tap-in goal, his 20th of the season.
And then there was the battle between woolly mammoths Alex Ovechkin and Zdeno Chara. The Bruins 6-foot-9 defenseman was on the ice for almost all of Ovechkins shifts and held the Capitals 6-3 captain to no points on four shots. Chara put Ovechkin on the seat of his pants at least three times in the game.
I love to play against him, Ovechkin said. We had a pretty good battle. I know hes going to hit me and he knows Im going to hit him. I enjoyed playing against him.
Bruins coach Claude Julien said he made every attempt to get his captain out on the ice against the Capitals captain. It made for some great one-on-one battles, most of them won by Chara.
I made sure I had the right people out there against that Ovechkin line, Julien said. Chara likes the challenge of playing against the top players and shutting them down. Today was no exception.
The Capitals lone goal came with 7:56 remaining in the third period, when Johanssons intended pass for Joel Ward deflected off the skate of defenseman Dennis Seidenberg and behind Thomas.
The Caps continue their three-game homestand with divisional games against the Florida Panthers on Tuesday and Winnipeg Jets on Thursday.