How could the Capitals let this happen?
In a game they desperately needed to win to get into the playoffs for a seventh straight season, how could they play one of their worst games of the year?
How could they allow themselves to skate off the ice on the wrong end of a 5-0 loss to the Dallas Stars, the sounds of boos escorting them down into their locker room?
“If I were a fan, I'd be booing us right now,” Caps goalie Braden Holtby said after replacing Jaroslav Halak midway through the game. “A playoff race like we're in, to lose 5-0, it's awful. No excuse for it.”
Holtby was not the only disgusted player in the Caps’ locker room. With six games remaining in their season the Caps fell to 10th place in the Eastern Conference, trailing the seventh-place Detroit Red Wings by three points, the Columbus Blue Jackets by two and the Toronto Maple Leafs by one.
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The Caps are now 1-2-3 in their last six games after going 4-0-1 in their previous five.
“A week ago I thought we were playing our best hockey in years,” defenseman John Carlson said. “It seems like something always knocks us down a peg.
“As a team we thought we’d probably need all seven [wins] to get in and now we have no choice, It’s probably going to be a win-out situation.”
The Caps’ loss accentuated their problems at even strength this season. The Caps were outscored 4-0 at even strength and allowed a shorthanded breakaway goal with 5:10 remaining in regulation.
Caps defenseman Mike Green was on the ice for three of the Stars’ four even-strength goals to finish a minus-3 while Alex Ovechkin went his 16th straight game without an even-strength goal, the longest drought of his career.
Ovechkin, who leads the NHL with 48 goals, is now an NHL-worst minus-36.
“There wasn’t one part of our game tonight that was good enough,” Capitals center Eric Fehr said. “Five-on-five, power play, penalty kill, everything.
“It looked like we weren’t prepared. It looked more like a preseason game for us than a game that we needed to win to make the playoffs.”
Caps coach Adam Oates said he thought his team played well until allowing a second-period goal to Ray Whitney on a two-on-none in which Alex Chiasson and Whitney snuck behind Green and John Erskine.
“We fell asleep back there and all of a sudden it’s 2-0,” Capitals coach Adam Oates said, “and we didn’t really handle adversity after that.”