For the first thirty minutes of Sunday's meeting with the Penguins, the Capitals seemed to be keeping pace. After matching each of Pittsburgh's first two tallies, including a fluke bounce off the glass that Penguins goalie Tomas Vokoun completely misplayed, the Capitals proceeded to give up three goals in just over seven minutes.
That hole would, once again, prove too deep for this Washington team to climb back out.
"They're a dangerous hockey team," said Penguins captain Sidney Crosby. "They created a lot of chances and at certain points we had to play good defense.”
Despite receiving three power play opportunities to respond, Washington would only capitalize on one of them.
"They feel [dangerous]. The power play in particular," said Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma. "They were two minutes in the offensive zone and they've got one-timers from Green, Ovechkin and Brouwer in the middle. With two great playmakers distributing the puck it feels pretty darn dangerous out there. We also see the three, four, maybe five times where they get the speed through the neutral zone and Ovechkin is going with speed. They're a dangerous team when they're like that."
The Capitals did turn the heat up on their former netminder, putting eleven shots on Vokoun in the third period after a sleepy second where he faced just four. Despite the increased pressure, the Capitals could manufacture only one power play goal when an open Mike Ribeiro sent Troy Brouwer's rebound home to make it 5-3. After showing an impressive amount of discipline through the better part of three periods however, the Caps gave Pittsburgh a two-man advantage with a minute and change left on the clock, which Chris Kunitz mailed home for a hat trick.
"The score was 6-3 but it was a tough game for me and I think it was closer than that," said Vokoun. "It wasn't an easy game by any means. It was kind of chippy with pucks bouncing around in the crease."
Vokoun admitted that his view of his former team wasn't the best from his vantage point, but one thing certainly stood out to him.
"Surprisingly they weren't shooting much as Capitals," said last year's Caps starting netminder.
The Capitals put 24 shots on Vokoun, but frustratingly had 22 shots blocked and 17 that missed their target.
"It's a great team, you look at them on paper and they're a really good team," said Vokoun. "I'm sure they're going to pick it up."
The Capitals are now 2-6-1 on the season, good for fourth place in their division. Though one game could still be the difference between fourth and second in the Southeast, they haven't shown any semblance of consistency to assure fans that "good on paper" will translate to good on the ice.
"It's always tough when you have a new coach and three times in less than a year they've changed the psychology of the team and how they play," said Vokoun. "It took us at least 20 games to change when Dale [Hunter] came and to get in grips with the new system. Without training camp they're already a step behind."
Last year's team ended up just fine despite their rocky start under then head coach Dale Hunter, but in a 48-game season, these Capitals don't have "at least 20 games" to spare.