If Wednesday night’s frustrating, nail-biting, hair-pulling 4-3 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins seemed all too familiar to Caps fans here are a couple facts to consider:
Five times this season, the Capitals have held a lead in the third period and went on to lose the game, either in regulation, overtime or shootout.
Three times -- against Chicago in the season opener, against Vancouver on Oct. 28 and against the Penguins Wednesday night -- they skated away with zero points after having a third-period lead.
But before you start throwing stones at you television the next time the Caps grab a third-period lead, consider this: they have come back from a third-period deficit to win nine times this season – most in the NHL.
Sometime between now and the start of the Stanley Cup playoffs, the Capitals are going to need to figure out how to win the kind of games they lost this week, when the Sabres, Sharks and Penguins beat them by one goal.
But to head coach Adam Oates, his criteria has been – and he says always will be – how his team played that particular night -- not the final score.
“If you want to trade chances, you’ll have games where you score seven and then you’ll lose five in a row and you won’t be able to fix it,” Oates said.
“Shootouts are tough [to evaluate]. It’s not that you don’t care, but you don’t care. Not that you don’t want your points. But one of my criteria [for judging the game] is in the morning when I wake up.
“If I played in that game last night, how would I feel? You’re upset after the game because you lost. You shower, you eat, you get on a plane, you travel, you sleep, you wake up, you come to the rink the next day, and say to the guys, ‘Good game last night, eh? We could have won that game.’
“I can never get away from that, because if I go in there and say something else, they’re going to tune me out.
“They’re going to say, ‘He’s pulling amateur psychology trying to jack us up for tonight. It’s like looking for the Knute Rockne [speech] as opposed to saying, ‘Hey, boys, we played a good game. That page is over. Let’s do it again tonight.’ I’m way more a believer in that. If you look for highs and lows you’re going to have highs and lows.”
Oates gave his players the day off in Columbus on Thursday. He’ll gather them together on Friday morning and illustrate all the good – and bad – they did in Pittsburgh Wednesday night. And then he'll turn Page 47 of an 82-game season.
In that respect, Oates is giving his players the same thing he wanted as a coach -- honesty.