Six Down - Halfway through the third period of Tuesday's game against the San Jose Sharks, Washington appeared to be on the verge of ending a five-game losing streak (0-4-1), its longest slide in more than four years. They were up two goals, leading 6-4, against a weary Sharks team that had played and lost in Florida the night before.
Instead, the Caps suffered a stinging defeat when San Jose scored the last three goals of the game to skate away with a 7-6 overtime victory. The Sharks scored on a power-play midway through the third to pull within one, they tied the game in the final second of regulation on an Evander Kane goal, and won it when Tomas Hertl finished a hat trick in overtime.
The Caps have now lost six straight (0-4-2), their longest slide in five years, and they've lost four in a row at home (0-2-2) for their longest home skid in more than eight years.
Caps captain Alex Ovechkin had the 23rd hat trick of his career in a losing cause, the first of all his hat tricks that came in a Washington loss.
Video: SJS@WSH: Ovechkin earns his third hatty of the season
"This is a tough, tough way to lose; the number of different areas where it broke down," says Caps coach Todd Reirden. "Some games you can say are going to be a little bit that way. We had control of having the game be the way we wanted it to be. We didn't have to go chance for chance. We talked about it, and then now it comes down to - on a person-to-person basis - we need to be better. And that's not going to work.
"So yes, that is a tough loss. We have a chance to respond [Wednesday in Toronto], and we're going to do everything we possibly can to do that in a tough building [against] a tough opponent, back-to-back - not easy. But even if it goes perfect [Wednesday], we are not a finished product at all, and we need to get better."
With Sharks goalie Martin Jones pulled for an extra attacker, the Caps were dealing with San Jose's late push for the equalizer. Ovechkin blocked a couple of shots during that sequence, kicking pucks out to neutral ice where the Sharks would regroup and come back in.
When he finally gained full possession in neutral ice with about 20 seconds remaining, Ovechkin's hurried attempt at the empty net was blocked, putting the Caps in peril because Ovechkin and linemates Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie had been on the ice for 90 seconds plus at that time.
On the game-tying goal, the Caps were outnumbered four skaters to two in front of their net, giving Kane just enough time and space to score. After the game, Ovechkin blamed himself for not taking more time and trying to make a play to a linemate for an empty-net chance, rather than firing a low percentage shot of his own.
Video: Postgame Locker Room | January 22
But there were mistakes made all night, from the icing call seven seconds into the game that enabled the Sharks to take a 1-0 lead just 12 seconds after opening puck drop to failed coverage in the final seconds, with missed scoring opportunities and poorly timed penalties sprinkled liberally in between.
"That's the one thing that we have talked about in the last couple of days," says Reirden, "is that when mistakes happen, you take ownership of them. And that's everybody. Whether that's our best player - all the way down the line - whether that's a coach that makes a mistake or that's a trainer that makes a mistake, or whatever.
"The only way that we're going to get through this is if you're accountable and you can stare the guys that you're working with in the eyes and move forward. When players make mistakes or coaches make mistakes or whatever happens, that's the best way to move forward from something, is to stand up to the person that you respect and you play with and say that you did something wrong. That's character, to me.
"And if it means that we lose these games like this to learn those character lessons at this point of the year, am I happy we lost? Absolutely not. But if that helps us in those last 20, 30 games of the year and pushes us into the playoffs, then this was worth it. Because until you reach that accountability in your room from player to player, and coaches involved, then you are going to continue to come up short. That I know. So I do have a lot of respect for that type of action and leadership."
Video: Todd Reirden Postgame | January 22
Western Woes - The Caps struggles against Western Conference opponents continued with Tuesday's loss; they're now 1-8-1 in their last 10 games against teams from the opposite conference, and they've yielded a whopping total of 52 goals in those 10 contests. The Caps have been victimized for a hat trick in each of their last three games against a Western opponent.
On the season, Washington is 8-10-3 against Western clubs and it is 19-6-3 against fellow occupants of the Eastern Conference.
Caps goalie Braden Holtby fell to 3-6-2 against Western teams this season with Tuesday's loss. He has a 4.22 GAA and an .868 save pct. in a dozen games against Western opponents.
Great Eight - Ovechkin has now recorded hat tricks against 15 different franchises (Brett Hull holds the record with 20) and is tied with Jari Kurri for 10th place on the league's all-time hat tricks ledger. Ovechkin has had three hat tricks this season, becoming the first player with three hat tricks in his 14th NHL season or later since Jaromir Jagr in 2005-06.
Shoot 'Em Up - Tuesday's Caps-Sharks game was the 15th game of 764 in the NHL this season in which two teams combined for a dozen or more goals. The Caps have been involved in three of those games (0-1-2), including each of their last two games. Washington lost an 8-5 decision to the Blackhawks in Chicago on Sunday. The Caps have also played three games in which the two teams combined for 11 goals (1-1-1).
By The Numbers - John Carlson led the Caps with 26:32 in ice time … Tom Wilson logged 6:00 of shorthanded ice time of the 8:40 the Caps were down a man in the game … Oshie led the Caps with six shots on net and seven hits … Ovechkin led the way with 10 shot attempts … Ovechkin, Carlson, Brooks Orpik and Michal Kempny each blocked three shots to lead Washington.