The Washington Capitals, as they have so many times this season , dominated through two periods, taking a 3-1 lead into the final frame against the Ottawa Senators Monday evening.
What followed was "a collapse by 20 guys and I don't know how else to sugarcoat it," according to coach Bruce Boudreau after the game.
Ottawa scored twice in the third to tie and Mike Fisher, the NHL's No. 3 star of the week last week, batted home a centering pass from Chris Phillips past Semyon Varlamov (33 saves) in overtime to seal Washington's fate.
The Capitals (13-5-6), tied for the lead in the Eastern Conference with Pittsburgh, lost for the fourth time in five games (1-2-2) during a very trying time on the schedule, and with the accumulation of injuries across the team.
Missing again from the lineup were Alexander Semin, Milan Jurcina, Boyd Gordon, Shaone Morrisonn, Tom Poti, Mike Knuble and Quintin Laing.
No one wants to blame injuries and the schedule for the recent troubles, but reasons are different than excuses.
"I don't think the problem was physical," center David Steckel said. "I just think mentally we shut it down."
"It's a tough loss. I still can't really believe that we let it slip away," said Jay Beagle, who registered his first NHL goal to give the Caps a two-goal lead. "I scored but at the same point you're disappointed with the loss so it's kind of a bitter feeling."
Washington has allowed a power play goal that has tied or been the go-ahead goal in the third period eight times this season, and unfortunately the trend continued.
Three penalties in the third period made playing with the lead more dangerous than it should have been. Ottawa tied it up with Alex Ovechkin in the box for a questionable roughing call. "I think he just go low and I just hit him," Ovechkin said. "But I don't take a penalty."
The Caps could do nothing with a gift later in the period, as the Senators were whistled for too many men on the ice.
"They wanted it more. We take three dumb penalties, they get the momentum, they get the crowd into it and we leave our poor goalie out to dry," Boudreau said.
"What happens a lot to us is that we go two periods without a penalty and then all of a sudden it's, well, 'We got to call something on them.' And you get a cheap one. But at least two of them were deserved."
Washington out shot Ottawa 25-15 through the first two periods of play, but the table was reversed in the third, as the Sens dominated, beating the Caps in shots 18-3.
The Caps got first period goals from Chris Clark (2) and Brendan Morrison (8) to take the early 2-1 lead, and Beagle got his first in the second period, which should have made things comfortable in the third period.
But it seems like lately, when things should be comfortable, that's when the Capitals have their most trouble.
The Caps are off until Wednesday night, when they host the Buffalo Sabres at 7:00 pm at Verizon Center.