A little more than a month ago, the
They've gone 8-5-0 in the 13 games since the meeting, at times showing enough noticeable improvement to suggest that things were finally starting to come together under first-year coach
But after losing to the
The Capitals, who play nine of their next 12 games on the road (where they have just three wins), face a harsh reality in the
"We can't squander the points that we need to catch Carolina,"
The scarcity of those opportunities is what made the Capitals' regression to their early-season bad habits against the Islanders and Rangers this weekend particularly discouraging.
No team operates perfectly, but for Washington to be undone by the familiar antagonists of penalty troubles, lack of positional soundness and sloppy neutral-zone play smacks of undoing the progress at the strides it showed when it won five of the six previous games.
"Terrible start, and we've been getting better ever since. This weekend's a bit of a step back, but I think you can still see our game where we're playing a lot better,"
Perhaps the most frustrating part of the losses was that Washington's top players were the most culpable. Against the Islanders it was leading scorer
In Sunday's 4-1 loss to the Rangers, mistakes by