Photo credit: Rob Carr

If there was one moment that epitomized Tuesday’s game, it came in the waning moments of the second period. With the Capitals on the power play with chance to narrow the Sabres lead to one heading into the final intermission, Keith Aucoin chipped the puck along the boards to Alex Ovechkin, who was playing the point at the blueline. Ovi fumbled the slow moving puck, got out muscled by Jason Pominville and then stumbled to the ice. Pominville finished the sequence by deflating any hope there was on the Capitals bench when his shot hit the back of the net. Ovechkin smashed his stick against the goal post in frustration.

In sharp contrast to Sunday, chants of “Ovi!” came not from the home fans, but some in the large and vocal Sabres contingent. The game was over, though Buffalo wasn’t done scoring. It ended with a 5-1 Sabres victory and a mostly empty Verizon Center.

“We dig ourselves a hole there and we get some life back in the building at 3-1 and the fourth one really hurt us, so did the fifth one,” Brooks Laich said after the game.

Ovechkin offered a simple explanation.

“I don’t think we play bad we just made mistakes in own zone,” he said. “When they score shorthanded, I should play my skate not my stick but, you know, it happens.”

This was a match-up Dale Hunter compared to a game seven in the playoffs. Which is not an untrue statement if you recall the Caps’ 6-2 defeat to the Pittsburgh Penguins in Washington to end their 2009 season. Verizon Center had the same stunned feel as the third period ticked away Tuesday night. But after the game, Hunter and the rest of the team attempted to play it down and focus on their five remaining contests. That’s obviously valid. After all, they’re not going to get those proverbial four points back by sulking.

“It actually becomes very simple,” said Laich. “Life right now becomes very simple. You focus on your games and what you can control and you can’t look any further than that. And if you put your best effort in, I believe in this group. I believe we’re going to get in. These next five games, they’re going to tell the story of our hockey games.”

Added Karl Alzner: “We’re going to have to be a desperate hockey team, every single second of every game.”

It wasn’t just who they played. It wasn’t just how they played. It was the brilliantly awful way they showed up to the biggest game of their season. At 9:29 p.m. it came to a merciful end. The remaining fans were silent and the Buffalo Sabres laughed and high five’d as they walked down the tunnel to the visitor’s locker room. The Washington Capitals are now in ninth place.

  • Tojohnson12

    The Redskins used this phrase a few years ago (and worked). Five in a row or we don’t go!

  • Guestz

    I really hope we don’t get in so we can get rid of DH that much faster and find someone worthy of coaching in the NHL.

  • Excuse me, Ovie, but you guys most certainly DID “play bad”.  That was abhorrent.

  • serpent

    If everyone on the team took Alzner’s comment there and made it a heart-felt mantra,stuck to it,played it AS A TEAM–we might have a chance.

  • JessHughes

    Only Alzner has any credibility with me — only guy to finish even in +/- last night, despite 19 min TOI.

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  • Sasha’s -3 somehow not doing it for ya?

  • Knuble, Green, Hamrlik, Beagle and Johansson were all even too.

  • Casey

    The Caps lost to the Pens in 2009 with a final score of 6-2, not 7-1. I was one of the few that stayed until the final horn sounded… I’ll never forget that score.

  • Oops. My bad. Thanks for pointing it out.

  • CDizz

    Nah nah nah nah…nah nah nah naaahh…HEY! HEY! HEY! Here comes golf!

  • Pattyo

     He DID score our only goal……

  • GovtMinion

    Utterly and totally stunning. I followed Knuble’s advice, left work early so I could be in my seat, ready to cheer them on… so why did we all show up, and the Caps didn’t?

    When is opening day for the Nats, anyway? I think we’ll need to focus on that pretty shortly.

  • RIPplayoffhopes2012

    I have a question about coaches choices on goalies. It has appeared to me that Dale has been playing the hot hand till it goes cold. Why is that? Don’t most coaches play the person they feel best fit against the opponent and who did the best in practice? I feel like if you are to look at the starting goalies under his tenure it goes weeks with Vokun then a shake up, then Nuevy, now Holtby. I understand Holtby hasn’t been “hot,” he just had a good game but, I feel that if Holtby had lost the Minnesota game, Nuvey would have started in net last night.

    On a second question, is Dale the best fit coach for this team? From my understanding he is a very defensive minded coach, but the caps are set up for a very offensive minded style of play. I believe he is a great coach and will succeed in the NHL, but will his success come with our beloved caps? I ventured to Verizon center all the way from the midwest last Friday to see the horrific loss to Winnepeg. It appeared to me that the 17-2 shots on goal in the third period were partially the players inability to clear the puck but mostly the defensive conservative style of play. 

    Third and final question is what is the deal with practice. I have played sports all my life. In every season and on every team I played for, if we were failing to succeed we practiced more. I know this is difficult playing 82 games in a long season, but shouldn’t that be done with the multi millions these players are getting? It seems as if every game the caps depend on few players to succeed in the few opportunities (breakaways, odd man rushes) to score. No longer are the days when a lot of the goals come from battling low to get the puck in the net. Passes are not being made correctly or not being handled properly and insanely high number of turnovers are the story of most games. Do they not understand that teams succeed by doing the fundamentals correctly and not relying on the fancy skill of the few?

    I am not usually one to go looking for blame but, if Verizon center is constantly getting sold out for these games, there must be results. I watch live streams of every game from online sites that have the quality that appear a potato is filming the game and it hurts to sit through that 77 games this season and see the results coming out. Something has got to give. Who’s fault is this and what needs to change for success? With Florida and Buffalo’s strength of schedule these next games, I have very low hopes for the playoff race and this is deeply depressing looking at the roster of players. You can rest assured that I will not be coming halfway across this country to watch another game until they get their game together.

  • RIPplayoffhopes2012

    Forgot to mention, this is my first time posting on RMNB. I have been following your blog and twitter feeds religiously for two or so years now and I have been nothing but pleased with the work you all put out. This is one of the more professional yet fun blogs that I have seen for any NHL team. RMNB is fantastic, don’t ever stop!

  • Tojohnson12

     Meh. That’s baseball though.

  • Thank you!

  • Guestz

    and since it wasn’t on the PP that means he was on the ice for 4 of their 5. no excuse…

  • Well things may not look too good at the moment but I’m sure they will turn out better!

  • serpent

    Depends on which Caps team shows up tonight. So often, they look so confused as if they’re trying to remember assignments instead of just playing their game.

  • Letsgocaps!

    Hunter and Knuble look like a match made in heaven.  Look at those faces(: Dean’s is pretty good too!