Anaheim Ducks coach Randy Carlyle referred to the Caps' Tuesday night situation as a "hangover," noting that Washington had gone from the spotlight and grandeur of Saturday night's Stadium Series victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs in Annapolis to a coast-to-coast flight three time zones away and a Tuesday night date with the Ducks, who've been healthy and hot of late, especially on home ice.
That confluence turned out poorly for the Caps, who fell behind for good in the second minute of the game and were in a 2-0 after 20 minutes. Washington seemed to emerge from its doldrums early in the second, but Rickard Rakell's goal at 5:37 of the second effectively doused the Caps' hopes of a comeback, and put a premature end to Caps goalie Braden Holtby's night.
At the opposite end of the ice, Anaheim goaltender John Gibson let nothing get behind him, stopping all 36 Washington shots to help his team to a 4-0 victory. The Ducks are now 7-0-2 in their last nine games at home.
Video: Caps Postgame Locker Room | March 6
"We were fired up on Saturday," says Backstrom, of his team's impressive performance in its 5-2 Stadium Series win over the Leafs. "It's a little disappointing that we came out a little flat there in the first, and I thought that we didn't help Holts enough.
"But you have to give some credit to Anaheim, too. They're a good team and they've got some skilled players. Obviously they are going to have some chances. They are a dangerous team and I feel like their D [defense] are moving well too. It's a hard team to play against."
California Star - Easily the best part of the Capitals' rugged Tuesday in Anaheim was the presence of the legendary Willie O'Ree at Washington's morning skate. O'Ree sat in on the Caps' morning pre-scout meeting, and also attended the game and spent some time with players after the game's conclusion.
O'Ree broke the NHL's color barrier on Jan. 18, 1958, becoming the league's first black players when he debuted for the Boston Bruins. Although his NHL career was brief and spanned just two seasons, O'Ree played professionally for more than two decades and didn't hang up his skates for good until he was in his forties.
Video: Rinkside Update | Willie O'Ree
He regaled the media with tales of his days in pro hockey, displaying a vivid memory for details and dates. The dapper 82-year-old lives just down the coast in San Diego, and he spent many seasons playing for the San Diego Gulls and the Los Angeles Blades of the now-defunct Western Hockey League.
O'Ree is similar to Wayne Gretzky and Bobby Orr in the humble way he carries himself and in the magnetism that current players have towards him. Washington's coaches and players greeted him warmly, and most have known him for some time. Many players, staff members and media members posed for pictures with him.
After Tuesday's morning skate, Caps coach Barry Trotz was asked his opinion on the recent push to have O'Ree inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
"I think so," says Trotz, "probably in the 'builder' category because he doesn't have the games [played as a player]. But you build this game in different ways. If I had a vote, I would vote - you might have a vote; you should vote - because any way that you can make the game better and have a big influence on this game, then you should be a Hall of Famer. And in that 'builder" category, there is no question that Willie should be there, in my mind anyway."
Video: Barry Trotz Postgame | March 6
Holtby Struggling - For the fourth time in his last 11 starts, Holtby was pulled from Tuesday's game. He has now allowed at least one goal in the first period of 13 straight starts, and he has allowed multiple goals in the first period of four of his last six starts.
"I feel with him," says Caps goalie Philipp Grubauer, who came on in relief of Holtby. "You don't want to see a teammate down. Obviously, it's not easy for everybody. But we've got to make sure we pick guys up and make sure we get everybody going as a group. If one guy is down, we've got to make sure we work for each other out there. It doesn't matter if it's Holts or somebody else who is not maybe scoring or having a tough time putting up points or something. We've got to support each other."
Holtby is now 4-6-2 in his last dozen starts since the All-Star break. He has a 4.31 GAA and an .875 save pct. over that stretch.
"That was a weird game," says Grubauer. "I don't think we played that bad. I think we had some good chances, but we just couldn't convert - a couple of back doors bounced over a stick. I think once we changed [goalies], we played a little bit better and didn't allow as many scoring chances as we did in the first. If you clean up the turnovers, I think we're in good shape."
Hot On The Dot - Caps center Jay Beagle stayed scalding hot in the face-off circle, winning seven of eight drops in Tuesday's game. He has now won 37 of 42 face-offs (88.1%) in his last three games.
Fifth Time Around - The Caps had their way with Gibson the first four times they faced him, winning all four games, including two in regulation. But the Ducks netminder has been hot for quite a while now, and his first career win over Washington on Tuesday also extended his career-high winning streak to six straight games.
Gibson is now 15-4-2 in his last 21 decisions, and he has allowed two or fewer goals in nine of his last 10 starts. Since the All-Star break, Gibson is 8-1-1 with a 1.55 GAA and a .953 save pct.
Down On The Farm - The ECHL South Carolina Stingrays were also out on the road on Tuesday, taking on the Swamp Rabbits in Greenville. The Stingrays stayed hot, eking out a 4-3 overtime victory in a game in which they led by two after two periods of play.
South Carolina got goals from Matt Salhany, Kelly Zajac and Dylan Margonari to forge a 3-1 lead after 40 minutes of play on Tuesday. But the Swamp Rabbits scored twice in the third to force overtime. That set the stage for Zajac's game-winner just 57 seconds into the extra session, his second goal of the night.
Parker Milner made 27 saves in the Stingrays' nets to earn his 20th victory of the season (20-4-3).
The 37-12-6-1 Stingrays have already clinched a berth in the 2018 Kelly Cup playoffs, and they trail Florida by three points for the lead in the Atlantic Division standings. South Carolina also holds a game in hand on the Everblades.
By The Numbers - Alex Ovechkin led the Capitals with 24:38 in ice time and 10 shot attempts … Andre Burakovsky led the Caps with four shots on net … Tom Wilson paced Washington with five hits in the game … Christian Djoos, Brooks Orpik and John Carlson led the Capitals with two blocked shots each … Only three Caps skaters ended Tuesday's game without a "minus" next to their name on the scoresheet: Beagle, Matt Niskanen and Chandler Stephenson.