WASHINGTON -- They played the way they needed to play in order to bust a slump. They were hard on the forecheck, strong on the backcheck, and excellent against the opposition's top players through 64 minutes.
Essentially the Washington Capitals tried to stop their losing streak by attempting to play a road game at home.
Good idea, but it didn't work.
Anaheim came into Verizon Center and left with a 2-1 victory on Ryan Getzlaf's goal with 56.6 seconds left in overtime. The Ducks trailed 1-0 after the first period, but were able to ride Jonas Hiller (31 saves) and a Joffrey Lupul goal into overtime before Getzlaf spun away from John Carlson and fired a shot from the left circle past Capitals goalie Semyon Varlamov.
The Capitals are 0-5-2 in their last seven games, but coach Bruce Boudreau was close to cracking a smile during his 10-minute post-game news conference because he saw plenty of positives in Wednesday's loss to suggest that his team is very close to breaking out of this rut and going on a winning streak.
"If we could play like that -- they had 21 shots (in regulation) -- we're going to win an awful lot of hockey games, and I see us winning a lot of hockey games in the future," Boudreau said. "But, right now it's frustrating because no one is used to this. So, I'm not saying it takes its toll, but it really makes you get mentally stronger.
"We could have come in after the second period tied 1-1 and been so frustrated, and we weren't," he continued. "We went out and I thought we played a really good third period. That tells me they're getting mentally stronger."
Mental toughness doesn't score you goals, though, and the Capitals are craving some of those. They have just two over their last four games and nine in the last seven.
Boudreau used the word "snakebit," and there's merit to that.
Three times Wednesday the Capitals were inches away from taking a 2-0 lead. They couldn't.
Brooks Laich, whose eighth of the season gave the Caps a 1-0 lead 14:22 into the first period, had a shot trickle through Hiller's legs only to be swept out of the blue paint by Getzlaf before the puck could slither across the goal line.
Alex Ovechkin hit the crossbar on a breakaway four minutes into the second period -- shortly after Nicklas Backstrom was denied when his shot off a 3-on-1 was stopped by the back of Hiller's right leg. Hiller might have actually first got a piece of the shot with his stick, but it was hard to tell on the video replays.
"I don't know why it's happening, but I guess this is happening when you're struggling," Backstrom said. "There is nothing you can do. You have to find a way to fight through it. You just have to keep working hard, maybe go to the net a little bit more and get those dirty goals. We had our chances tonight, but we just couldn't put them in."
There's little doubt among the Capitals that those chances will go in as long as they continue to play the way they did Wednesday. It was not what you would expect from a team that is renowned for its fancy offensive stars.
Boudreau went so far out of the norm by putting together a shutdown line to match against Anaheim's talented top line. He never does that, but with Alexander Semin out of the lineup Boudreau figured it was the best recipe for his team.
Don't be shocked if he does it again soon because Laich, Matt Bradley and David Steckel were simply awesome against Getzlaf, Bobby Ryan and Corey Perry, a line that combined for 11 points in a 6-2 win over Minnesota on Sunday.
The Caps' shutdown crew was a plus-1 against the Ducks' best. The Ryan-Getzlaf-Perry line had the same number of shots on goal (7) as Laich did. Laich and Steckel, who added four shots, combined to win 18 of 27 faceoffs. Laich was 6-0.
Getzlaf scored his OT winner after Steckel and Laich changed for Ovechkin and Backstrom.
"We had a game plan and we executed it," Steckel said. "We were plus-1 against that line and that's all you can ask for. Unfortunately it happened to be them scoring in overtime, but we executed the game plan and played great defensively. I don't think we gave up that many chances, and it stinks."
Although the Capitals made only a few mistakes Wednesday, they paid for them.
Mike Knuble's unnecessary offensive zone tripping penalty on Sheldon Brookbank 12:08 into the second period led to Lupul's power-play goal that tied the game at 1-1. Lupul redirected Cam Fowler's point shot to himself before tipping the puck through Varlamov's legs with 7:13 left in the period.
On the winning goal, Ovechkin appeared to get caught flat-footed about five feet above Getzlaf as the Ducks' powerful center worked his way around Carlson to find a whole in the left circle for his winning shot. Ovechkin didn't stick out his stick in time to try to alter the shot.
"We didn't give up much," Boudreau said. "The first period, we're playing that way and it was 17-7 in shots, and I don't know if they had a real scoring chance. I'd like to believe they didn't have more than six or seven good scoring chances over the course of the game, and that tells me guys were determined to do what they had to do."
The first period was indeed good for the Capitals, who needed a good start to gain some confidence considering they had lost 7-0 in their previous game. They got it by scoring first and peppering Hiller with 17 shots, but the Swiss goalie was up to the task all night.
"When you go on the road your goaltender's got to find ways to give you a chance," Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said. "He did more than his share of that."
The Capitals couldn't care less about that. All they know is good wasn't good enough Wednesday.
It hasn't been for a while.
"Who cares about how well we can play? We're sick of how well we can play," Steckel said. "Losing sucks. I don't know what else to say."
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
|Saku Koivu Hooking against Karl Alzner|
|Mike Knuble Tripping against Sheldon Brookbank|
|Andreas Lilja Tripping against Alex Ovechkin|
|Eric Fehr Holding against Luca Sbisa|