Of the several disconcerting trends that have plagued the Washington Capitals through nearly one half of the 2013-14 season, one that manifested itself once again and ultimately cost them their game against the New Jersey Devils -- a 5-4 overtime loss -- on Saturday is their propensity to allow the opposition to respond to goals in unnervingly quick fashion.
After Alex Ovechkin scored his 30th goal of the season to give Washington a 4-2 lead with less than 12 minutes remaining in regulation (perhaps ironically on a quick response goal of his own just 2:39 after Devils forward Jaromir Jagr scored to cut New Jersey's deficit to 3-2), it evaporated in 3:40.
”Unfortunately, it’s the same cliché. I wish I had a better answer for you," Coach Adam Oates said. "We talk about it. I’m talking to the line as they go out on the ice, 'You’ve got to execute and get up behind them and keep the ball rolling,' and sometimes we do a better job than others. Tonight, obviously we didn’t.”
Zidlicky's goal was the 19th goal this season in which the Capitals have allowed the opposition to score within 2:30 of scoring themselves.
On Saturday, it was Washington's third line -- Jason Chimera, Martin Erat and Joel Ward -- that was victimized. They allowed Zidlicky to sneak into the slot undetected for his second goal of the game (Mikhail Grabovski was on the ice in Erat's place) and Devils forward Travis Zajac beat Chimera to Braden Holtby's hard around and threw it on net for Zubrus to tip it in.
“Our line just didn’t get it done," Ward said. "We were on for three [goals against]. We let one slip through. Our line just dropped the ball, and we were on for three which is unacceptable.”
When asked what the Capitals are doing (or not doing) on shifts immediately following goals that provides opponents with an opportunity to strike back, Ward, like Oates, could not provide an answer. Yet as the number of those response goals continues to rise, a unsettling trend is developing into a bad habit, one that the Capitals must break.
"I don't know if we're relaxing after a goal or whatever, but we need to do something different," Nicklas Backstrom said. "It happens a lot this year and can't happen. We've got to make sure that we're ready, especially after we score. We've got to keep going."
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