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Caps finish dismal homestand, continuing to struggle in their own end and against Metro foes, more

by Mike Vogel @VogsCaps /

At Home He's A Tourist - Over the course of the Alex Ovechkin era in Washington, the Caps have been a dominant team on home ice. Since Ovechkin's NHL career began in 2005-06, Washington owned a .665 points pct. on home ice, entering this season. That included the first two seasons of Ovechkin's career, when the Caps were a shade under .500 at home overall.

After Monday's 5-3 loss to the New York Islanders saddled the Caps with a 1-3-0 record for their season-long four-game homestand, Washington's points pct. on home ice this season is now at .621. The Caps have been a playoff team for 11 of the last 12 seasons, and the last time they had a worse home record was the season in which they didn't make the playoffs - the 2013-14 campaign - when they finished at .598. The Caps were also a .598 team on home ice in 2007-08.

The last time the Caps finished with two or fewer points on a homestand of four or more games was more than nine years ago, in December of 2010 when they 0-3-1 in a four-game homestand from Dec. 4-11, 2010, part of an eight-game winless run (0-6-2) that was magnified by the harsh glare of HBO's camera lights, during the lead-up to the 2011 Winter Classic between the Caps and Penguins in Pittsburgh.

Washington has yielded 89 goals in 29 home games this season, an average of 3.07 per game. The last time the Caps gave up that many goals at home was 2006-07, Ovechkin's sophomore season, when they surrendered an average of 3.29 goals per game en route to a second straight 70-point season.

Monday's loss and Saturday's 7-2 setback to the Flyers leave the Caps with five or more goals against in consecutive home games for the first time since March 1-3, 2009 when they lost 6-2 to Florida and 5-2 to Carolina, respectively.

The Caps have the league's best road record at 20-6-1, and after a string of eight straight one-game road trips, they are now set to embark upon their first multi-game road trip in nearly two months.

Video: Reirden Postgame | February 10

"That's definitely something we discussed just meeting after the game," says Caps coach Todd Reirden. "Right now, we need to simplify our game. A lot of times, the road can do that for you. We've played our best hockey on the road this year. And hopefully this will help us re-simplify things, tighten up defensively - all areas that we need to improve on - our play with the puck, to give ourselves a chance to do the things that give our team the best chance to have success, forechecking and playing in the offensive zone.

"We got plenty of offensive zone time tonight, but then when we do have to defend, we've got to be hard around our net and we've got to do a better job on coming into the [defensive] zone to sort out our responsibilities. And it's like I said, it's a product of some mental mistakes and some physical ones as well, and a lot of times in this situation a road trip can help you re-simplify things and get your game in order."

Until Monday's game, the Caps had been "on time" with their responses to lopsided losses this season. Saturday's blowout loss to the Flyers marked the eighth time this season that the Caps lost by three or more goals, and Monday's game against the Isles marked the first time they weren't able to get at least a point in the following game. They are now 6-1-1 in games following those defeats by three or more goals.

Silver Lining - Midway through Monday's game, Braden Holtby came on in relief of starter Ilya Samsonov in the Washington nets, marking the second straight game in which the Caps starting netminder was pulled. Holtby started Saturday's loss to the Flyers, with Samsonov taking over early in the third period.

Both goalies were victims of an acute lack of defensive support in front of them.

"We're hanging out goalies out to dry here, and they've both been really good for us," says Caps right wing T.J. Oshie. "That's' a bad feeling as a player when you've got goaltenders that constantly - Sammy this year and Holts ever since I've been here for sure - bailing us out and us not finding ways to protect them a little bit more."

Holtby has been in the midst of a prolonged slump of late; has hasn't won consecutive starts since early December. He came off the bench and into the fire on Monday night, and although he faced a number of high danger scoring chances in what was a 5-1 game when he entered, he kept the Isles at bay the rest of the way, giving his team a chance to mount a comeback that never quite materialized.

Holtby stopped all 12 shots he faced in Monday's relief effort, and eight of those came from inside 25 feet away.

Video: Postgame | February 10

Metro Mediocrity - Since the Metropolitan Division came into existence in 2013-14, the Caps have had a great deal of success within their division. They entered the 2019-20 season with a 103-51-22 record in the Metro, and since the start of 2014-15 they've been even better, with a 91-36-20 mark.

But after Monday's loss to the Islanders - the Caps' third loss to a Metro opponent in as many games on this homestand - they are under water against divisional foes this season at 9-10-1. Washington has allowed 66 goals in those 20 divisional games, an average of 3.3 goals per game. Given that the Caps are likely to face a Metro opponent in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, this is a troubling trend.

"We're learning hard lessons, and this ultimately will help us," says Reirden. "We've been through this in the past few years where sometimes things come too easy, and sometimes you need to fight through some tough times. That's where our team is at right now. It's not something you wish you had, you hope you have an easy time of it, but that's not the way it is; we've got a competitive division.

"We've got to get better. It's nothing different than I said before the break, when we weren't a finished product then. Our record was obviously in a good spot, but we're still where we are in our division. But this isn't winning hockey right here, and there is no secret to that. So we have to get back to work and hope that we can find a quick fix to it, and if not, we'll continue to work at it and grind through it until we find the answer."

By The Numbers - John Carlson led the Caps with 27:56 in ice time … Alex Ovechkin led the Caps with six shots on net and a dozen shots attempts, but he was also on the ice for all five New York goals, finishing the night at minus-4 … Tom Wilson led the Caps with seven hits … Oshie, Dmitry Orlov and Nic Dowd had two blocked shots each to pace the Caps … Dowd and Oshie each won five of eight draws (63 percent) in the game.

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