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Capitals hold team meeting in midst of five-game losing streak

Niskanen said players addressed 'a few things that feel like a mess right now'

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / Staff Writer

ARLINGTON, Va. -- The Washington Capitals held an extended team meeting prior to their practice Monday in the midst of a five-game losing streak.

This meeting came after Washington held a brief closed-door players meeting following its 8-5 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday. 

Video: Toews' sixth hatty powers Blackhawks past Capitals

Although the Capitals (27-16-5) are tied in points with the Columbus Blue Jackets for second place in the Metropolitan Division, they clearly understand the urgency of their situation after being outscored 23-9 in their past five games. With two games remaining before the break for the 2019 Honda NHL All-Star Weekend -- against the San Jose Sharks at Capital One Arena on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET; ESPN+, SNE, SNO, SNP, TVAS, NBCSWA, NBCSCA, NHL.TV) and at the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday -- they want to get back on track now.

"There's a few things that feel like a mess right now," defenseman Matt Niskanen said. "Giving up eight is not a good feeling, so we had a little chat last night and we had a little bit bigger chat this morning. We're trying to get crystal clear on a few things that need to improve, and we'll try to keep a good attitude, an honest attitude, about where we're at and where we want to get to and keep working towards it."

While Washington looked like the defending Stanley Cup champions when it went 16-3-0 from Nov. 16-Dec. 29, 2018, it has gone 3-6-2 since, including 0-4-1 in its past five games. It's the Capitals' first five-game losing streak since Oct. 26-Nov. 4, 2014 (also 0-4-1), and they haven't lost at least six straight since they went 0-5-2 from Jan. 12-24, 2014. 

Tweet from @Capitals: Braden Holtby, Matt Niskanen and Tom Wilson talk with the media after Monday's practice at MedStar Capitals Iceplex

If the Capitals took for granted how hard they needed to work during their 16-3-0 run and when they won the Cup last season, this slump has provided a wake-up call.

"The main thing is we've got to remember, be honest with ourselves for the last two years or so, that things haven't come easy," goalie Braden Holtby said. "That's something that can be lost in the fact of winning. Because things weren't easy last year. We had to grind our way through to get where we were, and that's going to be what we have to do this year."

After scoring one 5-on-5 goal in their previous four games, the Capitals completely lost their defensive structure against the Blackhawks and allowed a season-high eight goals. During their meeting Monday, which delayed the start of practice for about 30 minutes, coach Todd Reirden and his staff reviewed video with the players to demonstrate where they've lost attention to detail. 

"Some of the things that we're doing incorrectly and mistakes we're making, they're big ones," Reirden said. "We've got to go through those things as a group, players and coaches, obviously have video to back it up, and ways we can get better. … We had a meeting set up regardless of the situation and just spent a little bit of extra time making sure that everyone's completely on the same page and understand that there's areas we can get better at."

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