The frustration of the Capitals was evident on Friday.
Just 21 seconds after Washington gave up a breakaway, go-ahead goal to Brock Nelson in the second period, Garnet Hathaway was called for boarding Matt Martin and was hauled off to the box by the linesman with his gloves off looking for someone to fight. That play was emblematic of the team's mentality for much of Game 2 as frustration devolved into an ugly 5-2 loss at the hands of the New York Islanders.
Hathaway's boarding call was one of five power plays Washington gave up on the night. Jakub Vrana continued his rough postseason with an early slash and Tom Wilson hit Ryan Pulock before giving him an unnecessary elbow, which sent him to the box. The team also took two too many men penalties. Washington's perfect penalty kill was finally pierced early in the second period by Nick Leddy, snapping a streak of 14 straight penalty kills.
"The disappointing part is that we get off to a good start and then self-inflicted again plays," Todd Reirden said. "It's mentally as it is physically. I mean, too many men on the ice, it's clear that the players know who they're going for and it's poor changes. Now we end up giving the momentum, we take a couple other penalties that aren't great and we allow them to get back in the game and get some momentum. We have to be smarter in that regard."
It wasn't just the penalties that cost the Caps as mistakes were rampant throughout the game. New York's second goal came off a defensive zone turnover as Lars Eller was attacked by two forecheckers behind the net and no one reacted to give him a target to pass to. The game-winner was scored on a breakaway as Vrana tried to corral the puck at the offensive blue line with his back turned to the pressure. Brock Nelson stole it away to launch himself on the breakaway.
"I think we are just a little out of sync," John Carlson said. "There is obviously times where guys make bad plays and bad decisions, that is hockey, but I think a lot of the time we do execute the first play or two. You know just out of sync on that next leg of the play."
Coming into this series, everyone knew the Islanders could be a frustrating team to play against. It's their style of play. They play a very tough defensive style that, once they get a lead on you, suddenly becomes suffocating to play against.
But the feeling from the Caps after two games isn't so much that they are getting beat by the Islanders, but that they are beating themselves.
"We have to figure out a way to outwork this team and match their work ethic," Reirden said. "We do at some points like we do to start a game, but we don't do it for extended periods of time. We're going to have to if we want to get back in this series."
So how do you prevent the frustration we've seen from the games keep from getting into the minds of the players now with the team down 2-0 in the series?
Alex Ovechkin put it bluntly: "We've just got to move on."