Capitals coach Adam Oates was asked after Tuesday night’s 1-0 loss to the New York Islanders if those are the games teams need to win if they want to be playoff teams.
“No question,” he said. “Those are the points you gotta get.”
If the Capitals fail to reach the playoffs for a seventh straight time this spring, there will be plenty of games they will regret.
Tuesday night’s will be right up there. Against a team nine points below them in the Eastern Conference standings the Capitals muddled through 60 minutes of errant passes, bad penalties and poor shot selection to remain three points out of a playoff spot.
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“I think what it proves is we can’t worry about [scoring] goals,” Oates said. “You’ve got to worry about your own end. We turned it over too many times [14 giveaways]. We gave them a little life with penalties. You’ve got to be a defensive team first.”
While the Caps went 0-for-6 on the power play, it was the penalties they took that bothered Oates.
Two of the five power plays awarded to the Islanders came while the Caps were on their own power plays. Joel Ward’s interference penalty was particularly upsetting to Oates.
“Dumb ones are tough to take and they’re from responsible guys,” he said. “They know better. Mistakes hurt you, they always do.”
Troy Brouwer also had a rough night, missing the net on one power play chance, fanning on another, and taking an interference penalty that wiped out a Caps power play.
“That was a product of the evening.”
The Caps are now 0-6-1 in their last seven games against Metropolitan Division teams and with a 25-23-9 record they are beginning to look more like the teams near the bottom of that division than they are the teams at the top.