Caps need to beat the best

Caps need to beat the best
February 18, 2013, 2:15 pm
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Oates: "We still made a lot of mistakes"

Sudden thoughts and second thoughts as the Capitals reflect on Sunday’s 2-1 loss to the Rangers and begin their longest break in the schedule, a three-day hiatus that precedes a rare home-and-home series against the New Jersey Devils Thursday and Saturday at VerizonCenter.

Beaten down: The Caps are now 0-7-1 against teams that are ranked in the top eight in the Eastern Conference and 5-2-0 against teams that are in the bottom eight. That is not a good sign for a team that will need to play at least six games over. 500 the remainder of the season to get into the playoffs for the sixth straight year.

Lesson learned: The Rangers did almost everything better than the Caps in Sunday’s win, outshooting them 40-28, outhitting them 34-22 and outperforming them on special teams, killing off four power plays and scoring once on five of their own opportunities. Including shots that were blocked or missed the net, the Rangers had 69 attempts at the net, compared to 51 for the Caps.

“We started off pretty good [with a goal by John Carlson] but then they took over with those power plays and they played better than us,” Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom said.

“We’ll go home, watch what went wrong, regroup and make sure we’re ready on Thursday. I think it will be good for us to rest a little bit and practice two days because we haven’t been able to practice.”

Big skates to fill: Without Mike Green, Tomas Kundratek played a career-high 23:25 on Sunday, mostly on a top pairing with Karl Alzner. Kundratek logged 1:39 on the power play and 2:50 on the penalty kill.

After the game Caps coach Adam Oates admitted it was a lot to ask of the rookie defenseman.

“I thought he did a good job,” Oates said. “It’s a tough environment. You’re pumped up, it’s the New York Rangers, MadisonSquareGarden. It’s a lot of minutes, a lot of responsibility. It’s a great opportunity for him, learning curve-wise. We’d still rather have Greenie in the lineup, but that happens to every team.”

The Caps will have a better idea on Tuesday the extent of Green’s lower body injury.

Getting looks: Wojtek Wolski had three quality scoring chances against the Rangers, including a mini-breakaway in which he was stopped by former teammate Henrik Lundqvist and a 2-on-1 with Backstrom in which his shot sailed wide left.

“It was kind of a little behind me,” Wolski said of Backstrom’s feed. “I thought I could go across the net because I figured [Lundqvist] would probably push pretty hard toward my side. It was two opportunities that should be goals.”

Wolski has not gone seven games without a goal and has just two goals through 15 games.