NEW YORK – The opponents change and the scores change, but the results are still the same.
Bad penalties and costly turnovers hurt the Capitals again in Sunday night’s 4-1 loss to the New York Rangers in a game that felt like it was over after just 25 minutes of play.
The Capitals have lost five games in a row for the first time since the 2010-11 season and have lost 12 of their last 16 games.
“We need to fix the mistakes,” Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin said. “We take lots of penalties that cost us the game. They kill us. It’s tough and it’s frustrating.”
Ovechkin was asked if there is anything that can be said inside the locker room to snap the Capitals out of their five-game losing streak, a stretch in which they have been outscored 15-7.
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“What are we going to say?” Ovechkin asked. “’Wake up everybody, or something like that?’ We say too much. We have to go out there and do it. You can be a good speaker, but we have to show it on the ice. Me, Nicky, Greenie, Brooksie. We have to lead by example.”
Coming off a 5-1 loss in Columbus, the Caps said they needed to prepare better for the Rangers, but an early giveaway by defenseman Dmitry Orlov led to a breakaway goal by Rick Nash 70 seconds into the game.
“Bad turnover for the first goal and we’re fighting an uphill battle right from the beginning,” Capitals coach Adam Oates said. “I feel bad because [Orlov’s] been playing good hockey and it’s a bad turnover. After that the penalties hurt us. They didn’t really have to earn it.”
The Rangers have given their opponents 18 power plays during their five-game losing streak and the Rangers made it 2-0 when Nash squirted a power-play shot between the pads of Caps rookie goalie Philipp Grubauer, who blamed himself for the goal.
The Rangers were skating on a 5-on-3 advantage at that point, thanks to back-to-back hooking penalties to Marty Erat and Karl Alzner.
Erat actually gave the Rangers three power plays with a hooking penalty that led to Nash’s second goal, an interference penalty that negated Mike Green’s goal, and a slashing penalty in which he stabbed at a puck that was between the legs of Rangers forward Brian Boyle.
“He’s lying on the puck and I was trying to loosen the puck,” Erat said of his penalty on Boyle. “I didn’t try to do anything wrong.”
Erat said he didn’t agree with his interference penalty on Ryan McDonagh, which took away Green’s goal at a point where the Caps thought they had drawn within 4-2.
“I don’t know if we’re playing hockey or soccer here,” he said. “It’s like you can’t touch anybody.”
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Erat’s penalty-filled night was a reflection of what has plagued the Capitals all season.
Only now, it’s starting to reflect in the standings as well. The Caps remained in 10th place in the Eastern Conference standings, meaning that if the playoff started today, they’d be one of eight Eastern Conference teams out of them.
“Now it's to the point where, who cares if you play good, play bad, you need points,” Troy Brouwer said. “We are in a situation where we're falling behind right now, we're losing ground.
“We're not in the playoffs and after this little [0-3] road trip we're not any closer to being in the playoffs. Our best players need to be our best players. Our leaders need to set an example, make sure they're playing hard, playing the right way, making it easy for other guys on the ice to want to follow them, to want to do what they're doing and pushing each other to be better."
Backstrom agreed and vowed things would get better quickly.
"We got to really stick together and really battle through," he said. "It’s tough, but I think we’re going to turn this around and we’re going to do it next game I think and we’re going to be much stronger after that."