WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 25: Members of the New York Rangers celebrate scoring a goal against the Washington Capitals at the Verizon Center on February 25, 2011 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Maybe they didn't have their legs following three days off.
Maybe they ran into a hot team.
Maybe they are waiting for general manager George McPhee to pull a trade that will give the team a spark.
You can make all of the excuses you want for the Capitals' 6-0 loss at the Verizon Center Friday night. But one thing is for sure -- it's coming down to crunch time in the NHL playoff race. The Caps need every point they can get. And with 20 games left in their season, now is not the time to play what Bruce Boudreau called "probably the worst home loss I've been associated with" in his coaching career.
In fact, the last time the Caps lost by six or more goals at home was a 7-1 defeat on Nov. 24, 2006, against Toronto.
The Rangers have now won the last three meetings with the Caps by a total of 15-1. Losing at Madison Square Garden 7-0 earlier this season was definitely painful, but losing 6-0 on home ice was extra embarrassing, especially since Boudreau had talked to his boys earlier in the day about making the most of the 10 home games they had left on the schedule.
"We talked about all the right things, about making it tough to come into this building," Boudreau said. "The timing of that talk and what we went over and then this game was not good."
Alex Ovechkin seemed to have his motor running in the first period. He came out of the gates flying. He danced around two Rangers at their blue line five minutes into the first and nearly scored -- if it weren't for a head save by Lundqvist. Right after the next faceoff Ovie crushed a Blueshirt along the left-wing boards to the delight of the home fans.
He made another great move late in the period on a one-on-one against defenseman Ryan McDonagh. Ovie dangled the puck in McDonagh's skates and beat him with a burst of speed to the outside. As he cut around him and skated in on Lundqvist, McDonagh grabbed his right arm and pulled him down for a penalty.
The Caps, however, failed to score with the man advantage. It was a common theme on this night. Washington was 0 for 5 on the power play. The Rangers were 2 for 4.
"I think we started well, I had a couple of chances to score the goals, but I didn't score," Ovechkin said. "They scored right away after my chance, and they kept playing their system and they scored goals and we didn't."
More disappointment for the home fans, who have seen three straight home losses. In those three losses, the Caps have scored one goal. The opposition -- 12.
"I'm not happy. Our fans deserve better," Boudreau said. "We deserve to get booed. It's not fun when you come home and you've got the best fans in the world and you play like that. It's just not acceptable and it's embarrassing."
It's clearly not time to panic. But the Caps now sit in the No. 5 spot in the Eastern Conference, three points ahead of Montreal and now four points ahead of the Rangers.
They're also five points behind the division-leading Lightning, who beat the Devils Friday night 2-1.
They also may be without Green for a while. After the game, Boudreau said Green was "day to day." He won't play Saturday night on Long Island out of caution. No one is really sure what will happen after that.
This was the second recent head incident for Green, who took a slap shot to the ear in a game against Pittsburgh on February 6. He missed six of the next seven games.
His two shifts Friday night was his first action since then.
The incident started with Green initially cross-checking Rangers forward Derek Stepan behind the Caps' net. When the puck went up the boards, the two met again, with Stepan apparently sticking out his elbow or shoulder and clipping Green in the head.
Green fell to the ice and grabbed his head, and tried to get back up as the play continued, but the Rangers took advantage of him being out of commission and scored. Green then went to the locker room and did not return.
Some reports indicated that the league would look into the hit by Stepan for possible disciplinary action as it is trying to cut down on hits to the head this season.
Boudreau said he it looked to him like Stepan came up with the shoulder and hit Green in the jaw. He didn't think an elbow was involved from the angles he reviewed.
Without Green again, the Caps head to New York to take on the suddenly hot Islanders. Earlier in the season, this game looked like an easy two points. But as the Caps are finding out, no points are easy at this time of year.