WASHINGTON — It’s been relatively easy sailing for the Washington Capitals. The team is far and away the best team in hockey with 92 points. But the Caps have shown a chink in their armor as the postseason looms: slow starts.
Another such slow start doomed the Capitals in their 4-3 loss to the Montreal Canadiens at Verizon Center Wednesday night.
“I thought we had way too many turnovers, breakaways, two-on-ones,” head coach Barry Trotz said. “That’s not winning hockey for us.”
The opposition has scored first in 13 out of the Capitals’ last 16 games. Washington has only scored first in 29 of its 59 games of the season so far.
“We have to be more ready in the start, we’re coming out slow every single game,” Capitals left wing Andre Burakovsky said.
It was the sixth straight game in which Washington allowed the opponent to score first. Despite those slow starts, the Caps have only lost three games this month.
Before fans could get comfortable in their seats Wednesday, Washington was already down 1-0 after Montreal center Alex Galchenyuk snagged an errant Capitals pass.
The Canadiens kept the onslaught going in the second period and led 4-1 heading into the final period.
“We didn’t play sound enough hockey tonight, it was a really junky game for us,” Trotz said. “We weren’t securing the puck, we weren’t making good decisions. Therefore, we paid the price.”
Trotz even tried to “shock” his team into a comeback by pulling starting goaltender Braden Holtby for Philipp Grubauer. It was to no avail.
Washington scored two goals in the third period but it was too little too late as the Canadiens held on, snapping the Capitals’ four-game win streak.
“It seems like the second and third period we’re (a) different team,” Burakovsky said. “We have to find a way to do the same thing in the first (period).”
Washington has a chance to get back on track on Friday night at home against the Minnesota Wild.
The Caps have been dominant at home, posting a 23-5-2 mark.
Washington is up 10 games on the second-place Florida Panthers in the win column and 17 points ahead in the standings. However, complacency isn’t something that will be allowed in the Capitals’ locker room as the postseason approaches.
“We got a pretty veteran team in here, I don’t think we’re going to allow that to happen,” Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik said. “We have to stay focused. You have to make sure, especially down the stretch, that’s your best hockey. Take your foot off the gas, it’s tough to all of a sudden turn the switch back on for the playoff.”