TORONTO – The Washington Capitals have developed the bad habit of collapsing in the third period.
Washington blew a third-period lead for the second game in a row, dropping to 1-5-1 on the season after a 3-2 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday night.
“We got the lead, then it was the same old thing,” said a frustrated Alex Ovechkin, who scored his second goal of the season on the power play.
“The last two games we’ve had the lead and then gave the other team the chance to score goals…and they did.”
The Capitals took a 2-1 advantage into the final 20 minutes but surrendered goals to Leafs forwards Nikolai Kulemin and Matt Frattin less than two minutes apart midway through the final period.
So just like on Tuesday—when Washington lost to the Ottawa Senators by an identical 3-2 score—Washington snatched defeat from the jaws of victory and were denied their first road win of the season.
The Capitals now find themselves all alone in the Eastern Conference basement, a disappointing start to the season since Washington came within a victory of advancing to the East’s final last spring,
Ovechkin, an offensive dynamo who has seen his production dip the past two seasons, has just two goals and three points in seven games.
But he’s not the only one struggling. The Capitals scored more than two goals in a game just twice this season—in a 6-3 loss to Tampa Bay on the NHL’s opening night Jan. 19 and a 3-2 win over Buffalo on Sunday.
Washington has managed a paltry 15 goals in seven contests.
“We’ve got to change or it’s going to keep snowballing,” said centre Mike Ribeiro, who assisted on both of Washington’s goals against Toronto. “We haven’t played a full 60 minutes yet, there’s always five minutes here and five minutes there where we lose focus.
“We need to put teams away when we get the chance. Don’t let them hang around and keep sniffing around and get back into the game. We’ve got to finish them off.”
The Caps get another chance at their second win when they host the Philadelphia Flyers—another pre-season favourite that has faltered out of the gates—on Friday night.
“We’ve got 24 hours to regroup, we’ve got to figure out a way,” said Adam Oates, the Capitals’ rookie head coach who went to the Stanley Cup final as an assistant with the New Jersey Devils last June.
Climbing back up the standings and qualifying for the playoffs this season will be that much more difficult for Washington as the league is playing an abbreviated 48-game schedule due to the lockout.
The solution is simple to Ovechkin: “We need to do our jobs. Play hockey. That’s it.”