Two nights after what might have been their most complete, top-to-bottom performance of the season in a 3-1 win over the Minnesota Wild, the Caps took a step in the other direction with a 4-1 loss to the Calgary Flames.
Washington scored first, taking a 1-0 lead on a terrific Jakub Vrana play that set up Lars Eller just 62 seconds after opening puck drop. But the Caps couldn't cash in on any of their other strong chances in the first frame, as Calgary goalie Mike Smith was very good. He denied a glorious Nicklas Backstrom chance that would have given the Caps a two-goal lead, a rarity for Washington of late.
The Caps have led by as many as two goals for a grand total of 8 minutes and 55 seconds out of the last 485 minutes of hockey they've played, going 4-4-0 during that stretch.
But the Caps did not forge a two-goal lead in Monday's game, and Calgary responded to Eller's goal with a tally of its own before the game was five minutes old. Calgary tilted the ice territorially in the second period, and the Flames won the special teams battle thereafter and with it, the game.
For the Caps, the real disappointment of Monday's loss was their inability to build on Saturday's strong performance.
"Yeah, we were hoping to build off of that," laments Caps defenseman Matt Niskanen. "Because Saturday was a good effort. Tonight was very 'blah.'
"Everyone wants to build off your good stuff, and learn from the bad stuff and try to turn it around. It's going to be tough sledding for us this year, I think. We're going to have to work really hard to be consistent, because it's not going to be easy for us. We might have to learn some tough lessons along the way; I don't think we can fall behind in games like we have in the past.
"Every play matters. The smallest plays maybe didn't make a difference in the past, but right now it seems to bite us if you fall asleep for just a split second. So we're going to have to be on our toes, and we're going to have to be better."
Video: Caps Postgame Locker Room | November 20
Taking Responsibility - Caps goaltender Braden Holtby was not able to earn his 12th win of the season in Monday's game, yielding four goals on 39 shots against the Flames. But no one is harder on himself than Holtby, and he unsurprisingly blamed himself for three of Calgary's four goals.
"The first one is stoppable," says Holtby. "The third one, I just got spread out. And the last one is just a one-man screen that I lost the puck on. You should be able to fight through one guy screening you.
"I will obviously look at video and see what's going on there, but especially that third goal, that's a momentum changer. If you want to have success and win games, that can't go in."
Video: Barry Trotz Postgame | November 20
Overpowered - Two of Calgary's four goals came on the power play, and another came just one second after the expiration of a Flames power play.
Monday's game marks the sixth time in just 22 games this season that the Caps' penalty killing outfit has surrendered multiple goals in a game. Washington is 1-5-0 when giving up more than one extra-man tally in the same game, and its lone win in that situation - a 4-3 win over the Islanders on Nov. 2 - was a real rarity.
That Nov. 2 triumph over the Isles marked the first time in nearly seven years that the Caps earned a regulation win in a game in which they surrendered multiple power-play goals while not scoring one of their own.
"Two of the goals were right around the net," says Niskanen. "One was a seeing eye wrist shot from the blueline. They had the puck a lot; we didn't. We didn't deny entry. In our pressure moments, we either didn't create a turnover or we didn't get clears, whatever it was. The PK is not getting it done right now."
Video: Caps 365 | November 20
Johnny Hockey - Flames winger Johnny Gaudreau continued to have the hot hands on Monday, netting Calgary's first goal of the game. With that tally, Gaudreau has now scored a goal in six straight games.
According to Elias Sports Bureau, Gaudreau is the first Flames player to score in as many as six straight contests since Jarome Iginla scored in six straight games in March, 2012. Gaudreau's current streak is the second longest run of its kind in the league this season; Tampa Bay's Nikita Kucherov scored in each of his first seven games of 2017-18.
Gaudreau added an assist later in the game, giving him at least two points in each of Calgary's last five games. Gaudreau is the first Flames player to string together as many as five straight multiple-point games since Iginla did so more than 15 years ago, in Feb.-March, 2002. Tampa Bay's Steven Stamkos is the only player in the league with a five-game run of multiple-point games (Oct. 16-24) this season.
Still Going - Calgary winger Jaromir Jagr, now 45, played in his 84th game against the Capitals, and he picked up an assist in the game. He now has 94 career points (32 goals, 62 assists) over the course of his career against Washington. Jagr made his NHL debut at the Caps' former home in Landover, USAir Arena, on Oct. 5, 1990. Peter Bondra made his NHL debut for Washington in that same game. Pittsburgh drubbed the Caps 7-4 that night, but the Caps kept Jagr off the scoresheet. That's been a rarity over the years, too.
By The Numbers - John Carlson led the Capitals with 27:14 in ice time … Alex Ovechkin led the Caps with five shots on net and seven shot attempts … T.J. Oshie paced the Caps with four hits … Dmitry Orlov led Washington with four blocked shots … Jay Beagle won nine of 14 face-offs (69%) on the night.