There were video montages of his fights and goals, replays of Hunter's memorable playoff goal in 1988 against the
St. Louis spoiled his return by capturing a 2-1 victory over the Capitals, who have suffered three straight defeats and are 2-6-0 in their past eight games. It was the fifth time in the stretch Washington was held to one goal.
"They got better as it went on. They competed real hard, and that's what you need to win," Hunter said. "You can't set a time period to it, but I want them to get better and better every game, after every practice. … We've got some stuff to work on."
While Washington demonstrated more hustle and won more individual battles than in the last two losses of the Bruce Boudreau era, the team still lacked poise in the defensive zone and routinely found itself hemmed in its own end.
The Capitals struggled to sustain much offensive pressure until the third period against a St. Louis squad fresh off a coaching change of its own. The Blues, however, entered the matchup having already played 10 games under new coach Ken Hitchcock and they are 8-1-2 under their new boss, playing his smothering, trapping style to near-perfection.
Washington took a 1-0 lead 10 minutes into the contest on a goal created by
St. Louis responded a little over five minutes later when
It was a defensive breakdown and considering that some of Hunter's biggest alterations to the Capitals' strategies stem from defensive zone coverage, players acknowledged that they will be learning on the fly.
"It's going to take months to perfect,"
The Blues took a 2-1 lead 8:54 into the second period when a shot by
Washington came out with more offensive gumption in the third period but still only mustered eight shots on goal and wasn't able to put another shot past Halak.
It certainly wasn't an ideal start to Hunter's tenure as Washington's coach, but the players said there's no doubt that their new director will make plenty sure to point out what he wants in the coming days of practice and games.