Caps' loss to Penguins "was pretty brutal"
Capitals coach Adam Oates could have used any choice of words to describe what happened Wednesday night against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
He chose the word “character,” as in “lack of.”
He was talking about the reaction he saw on the Capitals bench when the Penguins scored a “bad goal” early in the game – Paul Martin’s floater from the point that eluded a screened Braden Holtby.
“You almost saw the air come out of the building,” he said.
Later in that first period the Penguins scored again when Beau Bennett beat Holtby on a shot Holty said changed direction.
Regardless, Oates seemed more bothered on Thursday by the response his team had to those two goals than the fact Holtby let them in.
“When they scored a goal we weren’t ourselves and that should be something we conquered by now,” Oates said. “… That’s where a team has to show character.”
Hmmm. If I’m not mistaken, this is the first time Oates has questioned the resolve of his players and their ability to fight through adversity during a hockey game.
Give Oates credit for not sugar-coating a very distasteful defeat. He’s been on a lot of benches in his hockey career and if he saw a team that lacked the character to push back against a hated division rival when they were down by two goals with 48 minutes to play in a hockey game, good for him to get it out in the open.
“Last night everybody makes mistakes in our zone,” said Alex Ovechkin, who had a season-low two shots on goal while having three blocked and five more miss the net. “Bad passes, turnovers.
“They score two goals and they feel pretty good about themselves and we were in position to fight through and get back on track and make it 2-1 or 2-2 but we didn’t and they scored third one. It was that kind of day you want to do something and you just can’t do it. They moved the puck well, shot the puck well and we didn’t.”
This is not something new for the Capitals, who have yet to beat the Penguins since Oates took over as coach [0-4]. They have had trouble keeping momentum after scoring goals and stemming momentum when allowing them.
“Two fluky goals went in and you see everyone sag a bit,” veteran left wing Jason Chimera said. “The next guy going out has to create some momentum. Usually, it’s a fight, but it’s on the individual to get that back. No one did a good job of that last night.”
Oates said he thought the Capitals had conquered that battle but Troy Brouwer agreed that it’s a work in progress.
“It wasn’t a very fun video session, that’s for sure,” he said. “Hopefully, guys realize what made us unsuccessful last night. We need to be better in practice. Our execution was poor.
“We have to have better mentality, whether it’s us scoring or them scoring. Going out the next shift and be better than the guys before you. Try to get momentum back if we got scored on or trying to continue momentum and push forward if we do score. This whole season that’s one of our weaknesses. After a goal our next shift isn’t that good and we’ve got to clean that up.”
They’ll get their next chance Friday night against the Montreal Canadiens.