The Washington Capitals played their worst hockey game since the New York Rangers beat them 7-0 in December. Washington played like queens in losing 4-1 to the Los Angeles Kings at the Verizon center in Washington DC.
The loss is their sixth straight to a Western Conference opponent.
Following the game, the players called a players-only, closed-door meeting to try to figure out what is wrong with this talented but underachieving team.
“It was everybody. Everybody chimed in," defenseman Karl Alzner said. "Of course the older guys who've been around, but everybody had a few things to say.
"We just wanted to make sure we're on the same page here. You need to have meetings throughout the year, and obviously it was a time to have a good one after that loss."
Alex Ovechkin scored goal number 21 on Washington’s first shot of the game but that was the game for the Caps. Washington played lazy in their own zone, horrendous on the power play and failed to clear the area in front of Semyon Varlamov on numerous occasions.
The Kings stayed patient, cashing in with three third-period markers to put Washington away.
Washington won the first 20 minutes surrendering just four shots on goal, but I suspect that was because the Kings were playing in what amounted to a 9:30 in the morning start time for them. LA needed some time to find their legs and let the coffee kick in.
LA must have had their Folgers during the first intermission because they took over the game. They out shot Washington 24-15 in the final two periods as the Caps never registered double digit shot totals in any period today.
The Caps led 1-0 after one period, but the Kings dominated puck possession in the middle stanza. Halfway through the period, LA's leading scorer Anze Kopitar, tied the game at one.
Standing with no resistance in front of the Caps net, Kopitar simply lifted a loose puck in the crease over Varlamov, tying the score at one.
The Capitals offense would look lost and out of control and the power play looked as bad as it has all season. Washington was 0-4 and even had trouble executing a simple back-and-forth pass between the point men during the power play.
LA forced the play in all three zones in the last two periods, never allowing the Capitals to get comfortable or set up. On several occasions, Washington even had trouble behind their own net trying to execute a break out attempt.
The Kings attacked the Washington offense and broke the Caps trap defense with long passes through the neutral zone.
On the Kings go ahead goal the Caps got caught standing around flat-footed. Two passes were all LA required in scoring a goal that started 10 feet in front of their own net.
Kings defenseman Matt Greene fired a rink long pass to a breaking Kyle Clifford and, after Varlamov left the juicy rebound from the Clifford missed shot, the trailing Andrei Loktionov stuffed home the game winner, giving LA the 2-1 lead.
The Kings would score two more third-period goals just one minute and 38 seconds apart to put Washington away for the day.
LA's Michal Handzus would brush in another loose puck in the crease as Mike Green, Jeff Schultz, Marcus Johansson and Matt Hendricks would all stand next to Handzus, never laying a hand on him.
It was as though the four of them were there to watch Handzus walk down the red carpet for a Hollywood awards ceremony. The effort, or lack thereof, was very similar to what Kopitar received in the Kings first goal of the game.
The Kings would once again break the Washington trap with a long pass into the neutral zone, this time creating a two-on-one for Jarret Stoll and Anze Kopitar.
Kopitar hit Stoll as he fired the wrist shot past an outstretched Varlamov to close out the scoring. Varlamov had no chance on the play and immediately following the goal head coach Bruce Boudreau called a time out. Boudreau could be seen screaming at his team for their poor effort.
"The message was basically about pride," Boudreau said. "It's a 1-1 game going into the third. We outworked them in the first, got outworked in the second, and all we had to do was outwork them in the third to start a tough road trip, and they looked like they were already thinking about what's going on in the sun. That was basically the message."
The Capitals need to do some serious soul searching with just 26 games remaining on the schedule. The team is void of a clear leader in the locker room and behind the bench. Although Boudreau is now the winningest coach in NHL history in terms of winning percentage with at least 250 games coached, his time is running out.
George McPhee has some tough decisions to make in the next 15 days. The NHL trade deadline is February 28th and the Caps are not close to contending for a division right now much less a Stanley Cup.
One of those decisions may be whether to keep Boudreau behind the bench for the remainder of the season. If you have been watching the rest of the talented teams in the NHL then you know most are beginning to turn it up a notch for the stretch drive.
The effort is even evident in teams like the New Jersey Devils, who are 8-1-1 in their last 10 games. Every team ahead of Washington is 6-4 or better over their last ten games. The Caps are now 4-3-3 over that span and have lost two in a row.
Washington had a clear-cut advantage today playing a team from the west coast. The Kings played their fifth game of a franchise record 10-game road trip and even played what probably felt like a 9:30 a.m. hockey game.
Yet despite all of the given advantages, the Kings seemed to be the fresher team. They out-hustled, out-hit, outshot and outscored the Capitals today.
If a head coach can't get a talented team like the Caps ready to win a game with that many home ice extras in their favor, then what is going to happen in the next three games when Washington travels out west to play?
It is time for George McPhee to make some drastic changes. This was a horrible effort by a hockey team that has lost faith in the system and quite possibly their coach. Playing defense like the Caps do was a necessary change for a team stuck in postseason hell.
McPhee's job is to find some players and a coach that can find the middle ground between being the defensive trapping team they are and the team that scored 313 goals last season. It is possible. The Caps have talent to spare for a decent trade to fix these issues. Do you think this team could play any worse than it did today?
Do not answer that question.
What would McPhee lose in replacing Boudreau now? What he may lose if he does not is a shot at the postseason this year and, if he waits, the Caps may not be McPhee's team to fix for next season.