There are nights when goalies are unfairly criticized for their teams shortcomings, and then there are nights they simply dont give their teams a chance to win.
Tuesday nights game against the Flyers should have been a measuring stick to see just how far the Capitals have come under coach Dale Hunter.
Instead, goaltender Tomas Vokoun muddied the lens with a shaky performance, getting pulled after allowing four goals on 21 shots in a 5-0 loss to the Flyers. It was the sixth straight win for the Eastern Conference-leading Flyers, who were playing their first game without leading scorer Claude Giroux.
Theres not really much to say, said Vokoun, who is rarely at a loss for words. It was a bad performance. All around bad stuff was happening and I didnt help with what I was doing out there.
Theres no excuses. It was a bad game. It was a horrible game.
The loss kept the Caps from winning three games in a row for the first time since their seven-game win streak to start the season and prevented them from gaining ground on the Southeast Division-leading Florida Panthers.
The Panthers picked up another point with an overtime loss and now lead the Caps by seven points. More importantly, the Caps slipped from eighth in the conference to 11th.
Were all disappointed in the effort, Capitals winger Mike Knuble said. Its a reality to check to see if youre making some progress and now we know we have some more work to do.
The Caps will try to pick up the pieces Thursday night when they begin a two-game road trip with a game against the Winnipeg Jets.
Its a pretty safe bet Michal Neuvirth will get the start.
We all know (Vokoun) would like a couple (goals) back and he knows it, Hunter said. Everybody knows it. One was tipped out of the air. Thats the game of hockey.
Tuesday nights matchup pitted Vokoun, who signed with the Caps for one year at 1.5 million, against Flyers netminder Ilya Bryzgalov, who signed with the Flyers for nine years at 51 million.
The game went south for Vokoun early. Flyers left wing Scott Hartnell beat him between the pads with a knuckler 16:16 into the first period.
The Flyers blew the game open in the second period, scoring on a pair of deflections and another soft goal by Vokoun.
We did a terrible job attempting to make plays to get pucks out, Halpern said. Not sprinting back to spots, not getting open for our partners, not getting into position and not making plays. We turned it into a practice. Our d-zone coverage (versus) their cycle. They embarrassed us.
Marc-Andre Bourdon was credited with his first NHL goal 7:23 into the period when his shot from the point deflected off the stick of Mathieu Perreault and behind Vokoun.
Wayne Simmonds made it 3-0 less than 7 minutes later when he redirected an Andrej Meszaros point shot. Hunter decided to keep Vokoun between the pipes and with 2:27 remaining in the period Max Talbot beat him with an unscreened wrist shot that ticked off Vokouns left pad and into the net.
When Vokoun made a routine save a few minutes later he was serenaded with Bronx cheers.
Vokies been good for us all year, Troy Brouwer said. Sometimes hes going to have a bad one. Thats when the team needs to pick him up and help him out. We didnt do that.
Hunter replaced him with Neuvirth to start the third period but the Flyers struck again, this time with a goal from Jakub Voracek, to make it 5-0.
Halpern kept Bryzgalov from recording his second shutout of the season when he scored with 6:01 gone in the final period but like the Capitals fans still in the building, he refrained from celebrating.
To be clear, Vokoun was not the only Capital who underperformed against the Flyers. Alex Ovechkin did not record his first shot until 4:21 was gone in the third period and Alex Semin was a minus-3 in 17:43 of ice time.
We were making some good strides in the last couple games, Brouwer said. In the fashion we did it tonight, with a lack of effort and some complacency in the end, it was not good to see.