NEWARK, N.J. -- When the curtain closes on the Capitals’ 2013-14 season this may be the statistic that stands out the most:
When they have scored two or fewer goals this season the Caps are 0-25-6. Conversely, when they’ve scored three or more they are 24-4-7.
“Two goals against on the road should be enough,” Capitals coach Adam Oates said. “We couldn’t score.”
Actually, the Capitals could score, but just once in Friday night’s 2-1 loss to the New Jersey Devils.
The Capitals stuck to their game plan of being patient against one of the NHL’s stingiest teams, yet still skated away with a defeat that dropped them from 10th to 11th in the Eastern Conference standings, one point behind the Devils, three behind the Maple Leafs and four behind the Columbus Blue Jackets, who still hold the final playoff spot after losing to the Blackhawks 4-3 in the final minute.
“You play like, that you give yourself a chance to win,” Caps left wing Jason Chimera said, “but it’s late in the season. Bounces sometimes don’t go your way and sometimes you play good and you lose. We played pretty good tonight and lost.”
Devils left wing Ryan Carter broke a 1-1 tie with 4:54 remaining in the third period, catching a flip pass from Marek Zidlicky and splitting Capitals defensemen Mike Green and Karl Alzner for the game-winning goal.
“Obviously, it’s a great pass, two feet in the air,” Oates said. “When Carter shot it, Greenie was moving over and maybe his stick affected Jaro’s vision just a hair. He maybe missed the poke check as he was lunging for it.”
The Caps put up one last flurry in an attempt to tie the score, but Devils goalie Cory Schnider [24 saves] got his left pad on a Marcus Johansson scoring chance with just over 2 minutes left.
“It’s frustrating moment to be honest with you,” said Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin, who gave the Caps a 1-0 lead on his first even-strength goal in 17 games and was a plus player [plus-1] for the first time since Feb. 8 “You can’t blame on one guy, you can’t blame for one play.
“We have a good game but one break cost us two points. After that we didn’t give up. Jojo had a good opportunity to tie it, but that’s why everybody has goalies.”
With five games remaining, the highest point total the Caps can finish with is 91. Even if they win out, the Blue Jackets can clinch by winning three of their final five games.
“We put ourselves in this position and we have to do the best we can to get into the playoffs,” Caps center Nicklas Backstrom said.
The Caps don’t have a lot of time to dwell on their loss at the Prudential Center. They have a 5 p.m. showdown at Nassau Coliseum against the New York Islanders on Saturday. How do they pull themselves off the floor?
“We have no choice,” Chimera said. “We have to. We’re all pros here. Guys make a lot of money to play this game and you have no choice but to get back up and go.
“With a little help we’re still in it. We’ve still got some games left. It’s a big game and you want to have it, but if you keep playing like that you’re going to give yourself a chance to win.”
Oates said he could not question his players’ effort against the Devils and is hoping for the same against the Islanders, who are 7-2-1 in their last 10 games.
“Obviously the guys are going to be bummed out,” Oates said. “I’m proud of them because they left it on the line. It was a big game and they played hard. It was a great bounce-back from the other night.”