At a time the Capitals should be getting their act together they appear to be falling apart.
A day of curious player moves gave way to a night of sloppy play and a sobering 5-3 loss to the San Jose Sharks in front of bewildered goaltender Braden Holtby and a frustrated crowd at the Verizon Center.
Joe Pavelski recorded two goals and two assists, Joe Thornton added three assists and the Sharks went 3-for-5 on the power play to spoil Holtbys first game of the season with the Capitals.
We just kind of hung Holtby out to dry, said Jeff Schultz, one of three defensemen to score a goal for the Capitals. You feel bad for the guy coming up and having the team play that way.
Dmitry Orlov and Roman Hamrlik also scored for the Caps, who fell behind 5-1 before mounting a futile comeback.
The loss was the third straight for the Capitals, who used a different goalie in each of those three defeats. They now trail the Florida Panthers by four points in the Southeast Division standings.
The Panthers can make that a six-point deficit when they face the Senators on Wednesday, setting the stage for Fridays showdown against the Capitals in Sunrise, Fla.
That is something we talked about going into tonight, said Capitals forward Matt Hendricks. We wanted to go into this three-day break feeling good with the points we needed. To not have done that, were going to have to sit and watch people play and accumulate points in the standings.
By the time the Caps play again they could have a different look if general manager George McPhee decides to pull the trigger on a trade or two.
McPhee sure was busy on Monday. Hours before the game the Capitals summoned Holtby and enforcer Joel Rechlicz from the Hershey Bears and to most everyones surprise both were in the lineup against the Sharks.
Holtby, 22, was recalled because Tomas Vokoun was still feeling the effects of flu-like symptoms that kept him out of Sundays 3-2 loss to the Rangers in New York.
Hes been playing well in the minors and we wanted to give him a chance, coach Dale Hunter said. Neuvy Michal Neuvirth played the night before and we figured he hasnt played much back-to-back.
It was a gutsy move by Hunter, who could have given Neuvirth a vote of confidence with a start.
Were all professionals here, he said. It was a coachs decision and youve got no control over it.
Holtby looked shaky but had little help from a porous defense that surrendered five goals three of them on the power play -- on 35 shots.
The Capitals talked before the game about staying out of the penalty box against a team that had scored 10 power-play goals in their previous 10 games. But that didnt stop them from giving the Sharks five power plays.
Two of the Sharks five goals came from long range, the first on a shot by Dan Boyle that deflected off the stick of Pavelski outside the blue line and one-hopped over Holtby. It looked eerily similar to the Dustin Byfuglien goal allowed by Vokoun in the Caps loss to the Winnipeg Jets last week.
Hed like the first one back, Hunter said.
Holtby had little chance on Pavelskis second goal but allowed a long-range shot deflected by Patrick Marleau roll off his right shoulder, off the top of his helmet and over the goal line.
Special teams won the game today, said Alex Ovechkin, who was held pointless for the first time in four games. I dont think we are frustrated. Everybodys trying. I cant say nobodys trying, or nobodys playing 100 percent.
Perhaps. But after three straight losses, the Caps may board their flight for Florida on Thursday looking a lot different than they do today.