Veteran mistakes costing Caps in losing streak

Veteran mistakes costing Caps in losing streak
January 2, 2014, 10:45 pm
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John Carlson makes an amazing save

The Capitals can score goals. We all know that.

It’s preventing pucks from going into their own net that has haunted them this season, especially quick-strike goals after they’ve scored themselves.

That happened again Thursday night – twice, in fact – as the Carolina Hurricanes rallied to beat the Caps 4-3 in overtime on Jeff Skinner’s hat trick.

“Embarrassing,” is how Capitals left wing Brooks Laich described the Capitals’ penchant for allowing opponents to score quickly after scoring themselves. They’ve allowed opponents to score within 2:30 of scoring their own goal 22 times this season.

“’Embarrassing’ is a pretty strong word,” countered Capitals right wing Troy Brouwer, who scored his ninth goal of the season while playing on a top line with Nicklas Backstrom [1 assist] and Marcus Johansson [2 assists].

[RELATED: Skinner leads Canes past Caps]

“It’s been a problem, for sure. It’s been something we’ve been trying to address. We just can’t get the mindset to make smart plays and get the puck deep. We’re turning pucks over, we’re making mistakes. Maybe we just get a little too excited after scoring goals.”

Capitals coach Adam Oates pointed out that the Capitals did a lot of things right against the Hurricanes, who have beaten them all three times in D.C. this season, but he’s concerned about their lack of concentration after scoring.

“Mistakes,” Oates said. “The guys that are on the ice are veteran guys. One of the goals, [John] Erskine went in the [offensive] zone and no one covered for him.”

Oates was referring to a second-period goal by Manny Malhotra, which came less than a minute after Alex Ovechkin tied the score at 1-1. Marty Erat, Jason Chimera, Joel Ward and Steve Oleksy were also on the ice for that goal.

“That’s mistakes by veteran guys,” Oates said. “They know better.”

On Skinner’s game-winner, Ovechkin sent a backhanded “wish” pass intended for defenseman Dmitry Orlov that was picked off by Carolina defenseman Ryan Murphy, who led a 3-on-1 the other way. Murphy threaded a pass through Mike Green for a tap-in by Skinner, who also scored the game-tying goal for the Canes in the second period.

“The winning goal, Orly shouldn’t go there,” Oates said. “He’s a kid caught up in the moment and the excitement of the crowd and the rush. The puck was maybe going to come to him but he should recognize it’s not. It’s a mistake. To me, that’s a mistake that we’ll fix. It’s not breakdowns like, ‘How are we going to fix this?’”

Overall, the Caps outplayed the Hurricanes, outshooting them 41-33. But they’ve lost three straight games and are just 1-2-3 in their last six games. Their lead over the Hurricanes shrunk from six to five and the Flyers, Devils and Rangers are on their heels in the Metropolitan Division.

“At the end of the day, we have one point in our last three games,” Brouwer said, “and it’s not good enough in a tight division.”