Lack Of Energy Confounds Capitals In Home-Opening Loss To Jets

One would assume that the Washington Capitals would not have needed any extra motivation entering their game Tuesday against the Winnipeg Jets.

A tough season-opening 6-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning Saturday and their first home game at Verizon Center since last May -- not to mention the 119-day lockout that delayed it by over three months -- should have been more than enough to galvazine them into action.

Yet uninspired play and the resulting apathy from the 18,506 in attendance did not allow the Caps to tap into that reservoir of energy in a 4-2 loss -- their first home-opening loss since 2000 -- which dropped them to 0-2 for the first time since 1996.

"Your home opener after such a long wait, you want to be able to come out and you want to be able to have lots of energy and lots of enthusiasm and be crisp out there and it just wasn't there," forward Troy Brouwer said. "That's very disappointing for us. We love playing in front of this building, we love playing in front of these fans. Home opener, big divisional points, everything was there for us to be amped up for this game and we came out and we were just flat."

Washington jumped out to an early 1-0 lead just over 10 minutes into the game when Matt Hendricks finished a tic-tac-toe passing display from Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom by deflecting the puck past Ondrej Pavelec with his right skate and stick, but from that point on, the energy on the ice and in the stands was slowly sucked away. Two Washington penalties led to two Winnipeg power play goals less than four minutes apart. The Jets continued to apply pressure in the second period, outshooting the Caps 20-9 and adding two more goals within the final six minutes to take control of the game.

"It was a little surprising," Hendricks said of the Caps' lack of energy. "We've been talking about this since we got back in town, about how much we missed the Verizon Center and our fans and playing in front of them and the support they give us. It was a little bit of a -- I don't want to say a lackluster effort because I thought guys worked hard -- but we need a little bit more energy. I didn't think that we had the energy we needed tonight."

To Hendricks' credit, neither did the fans (though the Caps' listlessness surely didn't help). Already irritated from standing outside in the frigid cold due to issues with the team's new digital ticketing system, the game itself did not lift their spirits. Hendricks' early goal and two fights later in the game elicited responses from the technically sold-out crowd -- there were pockets of empty seats throughout Verizon Center -- but they were fleeting. 

What was supposed to be a triumphant return home ultimately served as a simple reminder that the Caps still have plenty of work to do as they continue to assimilate to head coach Adam Oates' new style of play and reacclimate themselves to the physical rigors of playing competitive hockey. 

"It was nice playing here," defenseman Karl Alzner said. "It feels good being in our room and all that kind of stuff, but it was a really bad effort by us. It's very disappointing that we brought that game for our first game back."

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