“I wish I (knew).”
That was Adam Oates’ response to a question regarding the Caps tendency to allow goals quickly after scoring their own. Apparently, he’s just as confounded by the problem as everyone else. It’s been a troubling trend for Washington this year, one that surfaced again in their 3-2 loss to Pittsburgh. The Caps took a penalty and allowed a goal 49 seconds after Eric Fehr’s equalizer early in the first period. They also gave up another go-ahead goal 3:43 after Nicklas Backstrom scored to tie the game at two in the second period.
Oates isn’t the only one without an explanation.
“There are a lot of things we haven’t figured out,” Fehr said. “Teams responding after we score and our two-goal lead problem that we have…but I think at the end of the day we just need to be a desperate hockey team.”
These excuses -or lack thereof – are made more unacceptable by the fact that the Capitals dominated Pittsburgh, whom they have now lost to seven straight times, for much of the game.
“It’s a little frustrating to really have dominant time of possession and be playing well then find yourself down 3-2 and not being able to recover,” Fehr said. “We had a lot of good chances at the end, and it’s really unfortunate. I thought we threw everything at them, and we were good in the offensive zone. We created chances; we just couldn’t put that last one in.”
The Capitals had an excellent chance with time running out as Pittsburgh took a penalty with less than three minutes remaining in the game. With Jaroslav Halak pulled in favor of an extra attacker, the Caps still couldn’t muster a goal with a 6-on-4 advantage.
When Alex Ovechkin was asked if his team is worried about running out of time, the Caps captain responded as if the journalist was asking specifically about the game against Pittsburgh.
No, the reporter clarified, he wanted to know if the Capitals felt they are running out of time on the season.
Certainly the Caps should feel a sense of urgency, but their comments, especially those of a coach who just wishes he knew what was wrong through 66 regular season games, sound defeatist. After the loss to Pittsburgh, Oates and his players said all the right things, but somehow it rang false. They didn’t sound like a team clawing for a playoff spot.
While Ovechkin doesn’t particularly like talking to the media, and Oates readily admits that sometimes he holds back his true opinions, the fact that they can’t provide better answers doesn’t bode well for Washington’s playoff chances. Now, after falling to 3-3-1 since the Olympic break, they have to go on the road to face one of the best home teams in the league.
“You can’t get down this time of the season,” Fehr said. “You’ve got to be positive and you got to keep moving forward.”
That is easier said than done. It’s also something the Capitals have been saying all season.