Were the Caps not ready for Carolina?
They are the words a coach – let alone a legion of fans – never wants to hear and defenseman Karl Alzner uttered them following the Capitals’ 4-1 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes Tuesday night.
“You hate to say this, that it’s a tough team to get up for,” Alzner said. “Maybe if it was Boston it would be different for us, I don’t know. That may be the case, even though it sounds really bad. ... We took them way too lightly. ”
It sounds bad because Alzner has said it before. In fact he said it two years ago after the Capitals lost a game against the Florida Panthers in Sunrise, Fla.
But that wasn’t all Alzner said.
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After the Hurricanes scored on a power-play goal to make it 3-0 midway through the second period, Alzner said the Caps essentially stopped playing.
“There was just no life left,” Alzner said. “Not only on the bench, but in the stands. We may have underestimated these guys a little bit and when they were up 3-0 on us we were mad, but we didn’t use that anger the right way. We used it to kind of feel sorry for ourselves. It was really strange to see.”
Strange, but in the opinion of Capitals coach Adam Oates, it was also true.
“I think what he said is accurate,” Oates said. “We all feel that. The building feels it. We’d be lying if we said it didn’t happen. It’s not like they didn’t try.
“That’s part of the gig over a long year. You’re going to have moments that are like, ‘Wow,’ just like you’re going to have moments that are too good to be true. When the third goal goes in, it is deflating. You’ve got to play.”
Oates said he thought the Capitals played their best first period of the season and outchanced the Hurricanes 7-2 in the opening 20 minutes. Jeff Skinner’s first of two goals was one of those chances and Braden Holtby allowed it to squirt off his elbow and into the shortside of the goal.
Holtby wasn’t any better on Skinner’s second goal, a long wrister that beat him over his stick shoulder. Holtby didn’t have much of a chance on Andrej Sekera’s point shot, which beat him through a screen, and Jiri Tlusty’s backhander from the slot.
But Holtby has been a lot like the rest of the Capitals this season. Some nights he’s very good and some nights …
“I don’t think it was Braden’s best night,” said Oates, who replaced Holtby with Philipp Grubauer in the third period. “After the fourth [goal], there were only a few minutes left [in the second period] and I thought he could get through the period.”
Perhaps the only bright side to the Capitals’ loss, which snapped a two-game win streak, was the fact Mike Green scored his first goal of the season in his 25th game. Green’s goal came on the power play and came on his 65th shot of the season.
Afterward, Green wasn’t in the mood to talk about his goal, but he knows all too well the broken record that Alzner keeps playng.
“I think every team goes through their highs and lows,” Green said. “We have been very successful at going through streaks in the past and I think that’s maybe why it seems like we are so up and down. But it’s just one game.”
One game the Capitals may have thought would be easier than it was.
“We need to practice better and we need to be ready when it’s game time, that’s for sure” Nicklas Backstrom said. “That’s all I can say right now.”