The 5 Biggest Letdowns of Washington Capitals' 2013-14 Season so Far
With nine games to go on their 2013-14 schedule, the Washington Capitals still have an opportunity to secure one of the final postseason berths in the Eastern Conference.
However, they haven't made things easy on themselves.
Far too many points have slipped away from Adam Oates' team, and as Katie Carrera of The Washington Post points out, that could be a crippling blow to the Caps' playoff chances.
The Capitals have frittered away two-goal leads 13 times this year, six in the third period alone, and are 5-3-4 in the contests in which it occurs. That’s 10 points they’ve left on the table that would come in handy right about now.
Obviously, this team has more than enough talent to make up for deficits, but Washington has consistently found new ways to squander leads. That trend has continued into March, as the Caps have lost three games in which they've held two-goal leads.
Heading into the most critical stretch of Washington's regular-season schedule, here's a look back at the team's five biggest letdowns thus far in 2013-14.
March 26, 2014 vs. Los Angeles Kings
In a crucial tilt with the Kings on home ice, the Capitals jumped out to a 2-0 lead on a pair of power-play tallies from Alex Ovechkin. It looked like Washington would run away with the game.
However, a Joel Ward tripping penalty gave the Kings the opportunity to climb back into the game and Mike Richards cut the deficit by one.
Former King Dustin Penner would restore the two-goal cushion late in the second period, but L.A. came out raring to go in the third and potted three goals in just over 12 minutes to take their first lead of the game.
Despite losing in a shootout, the Caps ultimately had to be somewhat pleased with even gaining a point, as Evgeny Kuznetsov's first NHL goal prevented the night from being regarded as a total failure.
But if star pivot Nicklas Backstrom, who Carrera reports left the game in the second period, is out for any length of time, this team won't make the playoffs.
November 9, 2013 vs. Phoenix Coyotes
In early November, the Caps headed to Phoenix to take on the Coyotes. They rode a three-goal second period to establish a 3-1 lead going into the third period.
Once again, a defensive lapse gave the opposition life, as Lauri Korpikoski was left untouched in front of the net and cut the lead to one with less than four minutes remaining.
Then, a late penalty gave Phoenix a gift of an opportunity to complete the comeback and captain Shane Doan made the Caps pay with just under two minutes left in regulation.
In holding Phoenix off the board for the final 1:46 of the third period, Washington did come away with a point. At this point in the season, though, the 4-3 shootout loss is another game the Caps will look back on with regret.
March 6, 2014 vs. Boston Bruins
In Washington's fourth game following the Olympic break, the Caps headed to Boston just five days after beating the Bruins 4-2 in the same building.
This time, the outcome would be much different.
The 3-0 final score vastly understates how one-sided this tilt was, as the Bruins thoroughly dominated the Caps in every area of the rink and Washington rarely managed any sustained pressure in the offensive zone.
Through two periods, the Capitals had manufactured just eight shots on goal. Though they'd match that total in the third period, the 43-18 shot totals are indicative of which way the rink was tilted.
In the end, the Bruins got all the offense they needed on goals from Gregory Campbell and Loui Eriksson roughly five minutes apart in the second. Brad Marchand finished it off with an empty-netter to make it 3-0.
This was arguably Washington's most lackluster performance of the season, as Boston simply played with more purpose and intensity, and the Caps never looked like they had any hope of climbing back into the game.
The only bright spot was the play of Braden Holtby, who made 40 saves on 42 shots to keep his teammates within striking distance. He was the only Capital not at fault in the loss.
December 21, 2013 vs. New Jersey Devils
In one of the team's final home games of 2013, the Capitals hosted New Jersey in late December in hopes of building off their victory over Carolina the night before.
For most of the game, Washington was in control, as Jason Chimera, Mikhail Grabovski and Joel Ward all scored second-period goals to give the Caps a commanding lead going into the third.
Even after Jaromir Jagr chipped away at the deficit with an early goal, Ovechkin restored the two-goal advantage with under 12 minutes to play.
But in what has become a discouraging trait of the Caps in recent years, they allowed the opposition to score immediately after finding the back of the net themselves. Marek Zidlicky tallied 1:14 after Ovechkin did and Dainius Zubrus tied things up two minutes later.
The momentum had clearly swung, as the Devils dominated the Caps in shots by a 16-5 margin during the third period and overtime.
By the time Jagr found Andy Greene for the winner, New Jersey's victory seemed like a foregone conclusion.
March 2, 2014 vs. Philadelphia Flyers
In the first of a two-game series with their Metropolitan Division rivals from Philadelphia, the Capitals put forth a winning effort through the first 48 minutes of the game.
This is what made the 12 minutes that followed so difficult to watch.
The first two periods were a see-saw battle with both teams exchanging goals, but the Caps looked to be on their way to a big victory after Dmitry Orlov and Jay Beagle scored to give the hosts a 4-2 lead going into the third.
Orlov, who had already potted a pair of goals on the day, was then assessed a match penalty for charging Brayden Schenn, giving the Flyers a five-minute power play with roughly 10 minutes remaining in regulation.
The Flyers would only score once with the man advantage, but with the Capitals clearly fatigued during the closing minutes of the third, Claude Giroux tied the game with just over a minute remaining.
Vincent Lecavalier delivered the crushing blow in overtime.
What made this loss so difficult for Washington to overcome—as the team would go on to lose four of their next five—was how easily this game should've been wrapped up.
Unfortunately, penalties and defensive lapses cost the Caps once again and the lone point the team came away with wasn't much of a consolation prize.