Instant analysis of the Capitals’ 5-0 loss to the Dallas Stars Tuesday night at Verizon Center:
How it happened: Caps goalie Jaroslav Halak was pulled midway through the game after allowing three goals on 23 shots as a series of defensive breakdowns led to goals by Jamie Benn, Ray Whitney and Dustin Jeffrey. Jeffrey added insult to injury with another goal in the third period and Ryan Garbutt finished off the Caps with a shorthanded breakaway goal with 5:10 remaining.
What it means: Thanks to Columbus’ 3-2 overtime loss to Colorado, the Caps are now two points out of a playoff spot with just six games to play. Stuck on 81 points since last Wednesday, the Caps [81 points] may need to run the table if they hope to overtake the Blue Jackets [83 points] and Red Wings [84 points], each of whom have seven games remaining.
Boo birds: As they skated off the ice, the Caps were booed by many of the fans that remained from the sellout crowd. "If I were a fan I'd be booing us right now," Caps goalie Braden Holtby said. "A playoff race like we're in, to lose 5-0, it's awful. No excuse for it."
Game in a nutshell: Trailing 1-0 with 9:16 gone in the second period, the defensive pair of Mike Green and John Erskine got caught flat-footed in their neutral zone, allowing Alex Chiasson and Ray Whitney to get behind them. Stars defenseman Alex Goligoski snapped a 70-foot stretch pass to Chiasson, creating a two-on-none against Halak. Chiasson passed to Whitney, who waited for Halak to commit, then walked around him for his ninth goal of the season.
Scratch sheet: Caps defensemen Jack Hillen and Patrick Wey sat out with head injuries; Hillen from a collision with Alex Ovechkin last week against the L.A. Kings, and Wey from an uppercut from Nasvhille’s Rich Clune on Sunday night. John Erskine and Julien Brouillette took their places in the lineup. Left wing Dustin Penner [ill] also sat out and was replaced on the fourth line by forward Chris Brown, who centered a like with Evgeny Kuznetsov and Tom Wilson.
What’s ahead: The Caps are scheduled to practice Wednesday at Kettler at 11 a.m. and Thursday at 10:30. They play their next four games on the road, beginning Friday night in Newark against the Devils, followed by visits to Long Island on Saturday, St. Louis on Tuesday and Carolina on Thursday. They finish their schedule with home games against Chicago and Tampa.