For the fifth time in 25 games this season, the Caps have been shut out. Prior to this stretch of goose eggs, the Caps have only seen the zero four times in 190 games. Last night, Dwayne Roloson stood on his head 23 times and punctuated the fact that the Tampa Bay Lightning are a worthy opponent for the Caps in the Southeast Division, beating the Caps 3-0 in Tampa.
It was the second loss in a row to a division team; the Caps lost in overtime to the Florida Panthers on Tuesday night after a worthy comeback effort that fell short.
“That’s two games in a row I don’t think we were ready to start the game,” defenseman Scott Hannan told Caps senior writer Mike Vogel. “We fell behind early and it’s tough to come back in this league. We’re struggling to score goals and if we spot them two at the beginning of every game, it’s going to be a tough start to come back [from].”
The Caps seem to have problems getting started in the first period lately. On Tuesday, the Panthers out-shot the Caps 20-7 in the first frame and came out of the period with a 2-0 lead. Last night in Tampa wasn’t any different. The Lightning out-shot the Caps 14-9 and had a 2-0 lead to start the second period. The Caps have been outscored 39-27 in the first period this season and is 12-12-3 when the opposing team nets the first goal.
In the last four games, the Caps have been out-shot a shocking 52-26 and outscored 5-0. They’ve let in the first goal in the last five games.
Despite that, the team is 6-1-3 in their last ten games. Yet the Caps cannot settle into a mindset that they can come back every game; it’s a strategy that just doesn’t work, especially in the playoffs. It’s not as if the players don’t know that, mind. John Carlson certainly understands what needs done: “[I]t’s our goal to come out and get a lead and play hot, play good in the first period and we just haven’t been doing that and there’s no excuse for that.”
High-octane Vancouver visits the Verizon Center on Friday. The Canucks are a team on a roll, 9-0-1 in their last ten and currently sitting atop the league in points. If the Caps repeat their problems from their two-game Florida swing, it may not be a pretty game.