Having played the Ottawa Senators twice earlier this month, the Capitals had to know scoring against the Sens on Tuesday night wouldn't be an easy feat. Washington, a team averaging 4.64 goals per game over the course of its 14-game point streak, actually averaged 5.17 goals per game in the dozen games in which it didn't face Ottawa during that streak.
Washington earned a 2-1 win over the Sens at Verizon Center on Jan. 1 and eked out a 1-0 victory over the Senators in Ottawa on Jan. 7. Those were two of only three contests during the Capitals' streak in which Washington failed to score as many as four goals.
That streak came to a screeching halt in Ottawa on Tuesday, as the Caps suffered a 3-0 whitewash at the hands of the Sens and goalie Mike Condon, who stopped all 31 Washington shots he faced. The Caps fell one game shy of matching the franchise record of 15 straight games (14-0-1) with a point, established in 2009-10.
Ottawa was effective at keeping the Caps out of the interior of the ice in the Senators' zone, and it was also effective at quickly clearing any rebounds Condon left lying around in front.
After falling into a 2-0 hole in the first five minutes of the game, the Caps were never really able to find the offensive spark they needed to get back into the game.
"For the most part," begins Caps coach Barry Trotz, "[the Senators] clog up the neutral zone with the 1-3-1. That's nothing new. You've just got to manage the puck.
"I thought we had some really good zone time, but we didn't fight hard enough to get to the front of the net. We had lots of puck possession in their end, we've just got to manage it a little better. I didn't think we were as sharp. We didn't have as much for legs."
The Capitals woke up on Sunday in Dallas where they finished a three-game road trip the night before. They were home briefly, just long enough to defeat the Carolina Hurricanes at Verizon Center on Monday night. The Caps departed the District immediately after the win over the Canes, arriving in Ottawa - their third city in three days - in the wee hours of Tuesday morning.
Tuesday's game was the second in as many nights for Washington, but also the team's 16th in a span of 29 nights. The Caps have posted a remarkable 12-2-2 mark during that stretch, but they're also understandably weary and worn down from all of the hockey and all of the travel.
"It's not an excuse," says Trotz of the recent Caps' schedule, "but it may be one of the factors. I don't want to take anything away [from the Senators]. They played well. We had lots of opportunities on the power play and we didn't capitalize. We couldn't get a spark to get any energy on our bench. We had a pretty good run, so we'll have to start a new one."
Streaks Stopped - A trio of personal Caps scoring streaks also died on Tuesday night in Ottawa when Washington was unable to light the lamp.
Nicklas Backstrom's 10-game scoring streak - which matched his career best mark - was halted, as was Alex Ovechkin's eight-game scoring run and Andre Burakovsky's six-game scoring spree.
Ring Of Honour - Longtime NHL coach and executive and former Caps bench boss Bryan Murray was honored in a classy pregame ceremony on Tuesday, as he was named as the first pillar in the Senators' newly minted Ring of Honour.
Murray got his start in the NHL with the Capitals back in 1981-82 when he was promoted from AHL Hershey to replace Gary Green behind the Washington bench. Murray held that post for eight and a half seasons, and his total of 343 career victories still remains as the Capitals' franchise record. (Bruce Boudreau ranks a distant second on that list with 201 victories as a Washington coach.)
Ovechkin presented Murray with a Caps jersey signed by the members of the 2016-17 Capitals, with the number "343" emblazoned on the back to represent Murray's victory total with Washington.
With 1,239 games coached, Murray ranks 15th in league history, and his 620 career victories put him in 11th place all-time. After departing the District, Murray coached in Detroit, Florida, Anaheim and Ottawa, where he led the Sens to the Stanley Cup final in 2007.
The 700 Club - Backstrom appeared in the 700th game of his NHL career on Tuesday night in Ottawa, doing so just three nights (and two games) after teammate Matt Niskanen reached the same milestone against the Stars in Dallas.
Backstrom has totaled 689 points (178 goals, 511 assists) in those 700 games.
Man Down - Caps center Jay Beagle missed Tuesday's game because of illness, the first game he has missed this season. Beagle became ill on the Capitals' team flight to Ottawa after Washington's home ice victory over the Carolina Hurricanes on Monday night.
With Beagle missing Tuesday's game, the Caps now have nine skaters who have appeared in all 48 of Washington's games to date this season.
Man Aboard - Beagle's sudden illness and resulting absence from the Washington lineup forced the Caps to dip down to their AHL Hershey farm club to recall center Chandler Stephenson. Stephenson was recalled once for a brief spell earlier this season, but he did not appear in any games during his previous recall.
Stephenson stepped into Beagle's spot on a line between Daniel Winnik and Tom Wilson, and the rookie pivot logged 7:45 worth of ice time, winning two of three face-offs he took on the night.
Stephenson appeared in nine games with the Capitals last season, and saw his first NHL action since Nov. 10, 2015 in Tuesday's game against the Senators.
Back-To-Backs - Washington finished off its eighth set of back-to-back games on Tuesday, and the Caps are now 3-4-1 in the back half of sets of games on consecutive nights. Four of the Capitals' 10 regulation losses this season have come in those situations, and Washington has been outscored by a combined total of 25-23 in those games.
By The Numbers - Matt Niskanen led the Capitals with 23:20 in ice time … Ovechkin led the Caps with seven shots on net, 11 shot attempts and five hits … Karl Alzner led Washington with three blocked shots.