Slow starts dogged the Capitals in their last two road games, at Buffalo on Nov. 7 and at Nashville a week later. Washington started poorly, fell behind first, and never led in each of those games. The Caps were seeking a smoother and better start on Thursday night against the Colorado Avalanche at Pepsi Center in Denver.
It didn't work out that way at all.
Colorado's Gabriel Landeskog scored on a rush from the slot just 17 seconds into the first period to stake the Avs to a 1-0 lead in their first game at Pepsi Center in two weeks. It was the first goal of a Landeskog hat trick that helped the Avalanche to a convincing 6-2 win over Washington, the Caps' third straight road defeat.
"I am absolutely disappointed, angry, a lot of different emotions," says Caps coach Barry Trotz. "I expected a lot better. I expected a better start. [The start was] not great. I thought we were slow and sort of lethargic. We talked after two straight games about coming out of that, and we were down a goal right away."
Video: Barry Trotz Postgame | November 16
Coming into this road trip, the Caps had won five of their previous six games. Now, they're coming off a pair of consecutive ugly losses the likes of which they haven't seen in more than a dozen years.
Thursday's loss to the Avs came on the heels of a 6-3 defeat at the hands of the Predators in Nashville two nights earlier. This marks the first time the Capitals have dropped back-to-back regulation games while permitting six or more goals in both since Oct. 7-8, 2005, the second and third games of Caps captain Alex Ovechkin's career.
More than 59 minutes remained after Landeskog's first goal, but the Caps weren't able to climb back into this one at any point of the contest.
Washington and Colorado played a fairly even 18 minutes between the first and final minutes of the game's initial period, with the Caps getting a late power play opportunity, the only one of the frame. But the Caps didn't cash in on the man advantage, and Colorado added another goal in the waning seconds of the first.
It would be the first of three times the Avs would score a goal within a minute of successfully snuffing out a Washington power play.
Avs rookie blueliner Sam Girard gained the Washington zone and put on the brakes. He fed Nathan MacKinnon, and the Colorado center cut right and fired a shot past Caps goalie Philipp Grubauer with 6.2 seconds left in the first period.
Washington got another extra-man opportunity just before the midpoint of the second period, but once again was not able to take advantage of the situation. Less than a minute after completing that penalty kill, the Avalanche added to its lead.
Colin Wilson collected the rebound of a MacKinnon shot and tucked it into the Caps' cage at 12:25 of the second, putting Washington into a three-goal ditch.
Video: WSH Recap: Capitals struggle in 6-2 loss to Avs
Another Caps' power play went by without a lamplighter, but Washington did manage to get on the board late in the middle period. Caps center Jay Beagle lost a left dot draw in the Colorado end, but Washington winger Tom Wilson got off the blocks quickly and beat his man to the puck. Wilson shoveled a nice backhand feed to the front for Brett Connolly, and Connolly scored on his own rebound to make it a 3-1 game at 18:36 of the second.
Colorado answered again in the final minute, as Nikita Zadorov scored on a wrist shot from center point with 23.3 seconds left in the second, a goal that would have lifted the Avs back to a three-goal lead at 4-1. But with nothing to lose, the Caps issued a coach's challenge for goaltender interference, and a lengthy review ultimately came down in their favor, taking the Zadorov goal off the board and keeping the deficit at two.
Early in the third, Washington's power play again went on the ice with a chance to cut into the deficit. Again, it failed to do so, and seconds after completing the kill, Landeskog tore off on a breakaway. Dmitry Orlov gave him a little hack from behind, and the Avs captain was awarded a penalty shot. He scored, lifting the Avs' lead to 4-1 at 4:59 of the third.
Evgeny Kuznetsov scored a window dressing power-play goal for the Caps late in the third, converting a T.J. Oshie feed to make it a 5-2 game at 13:11.
Video: Caps Postgame Locker Room | November 16
"Obviously we have good skill," says Ovechkin. "Everybody knows our power play is dangerous and we have pretty good moves. We scored at the end of the third, but by then the game was over; it was 5-2 or 6-2.
"When we have a chance, we have to use it. In the second period, we had pretty good chances. But we didn't execute."
Colorado's Mikko Rantanen made it 5-1 on an Avalanche power play at 9:01 of the third.
For the third time in as many periods, Colorado found the back of the net in the final minute of the frame. This one counted, and it completed Landeskog's hat trick on an Avalanche power play at 19:34 of the third.
Colorado's top trio of Landeskog, MacKinnon and Rantanen had their way with the Caps, combining for five of Colorado's six goals and rolling up a dozen points between them. With a goal and four assists, MacKinnon had a career-high five-point night.
"I just don't like the last two games," says Trotz. "For whatever reason, we've had poor starts. We haven't been ready out of the gates. I don't think we've worked as hard in our battles.
"That's how I judge if we're going. There's a puck. Who is going to get it? Tonight, I just though [the Avalanche] won more puck battles when it counted."