The game winner.  Photos © 2009 C. Nichols. All Rights Reserved.

WASHINGTON, DC, Oct. 8 -- From the drop of the opening faceoff Thursday night at Verizon Center, the Washington Capitals played like they were in the third game of a western swing instead of their second home game of the season after a day off.

The New York Rangers outworked, outplayed and outhustled the Caps the entire game.  The Blueshirts (3-1-0) took advantage of defensive miscues on their first two goals, and victimized starting goalie Jose Theodore for the last two.

Marian Gaborik scored the tying and winning goals 2:31 apart in the third period, on soft wrist shots from the top of the face off circles, practically carbon copies of each other.

Of Gaborik's heroics, coach Bruce Boudreau said, "Those are the ones, in the third period, you've got to stop. I mean, you've just got to stop."

Theodore actually played very well in the first two frames, making several highlight reel stops.  But both of Gaborik's wristers went right through the veteran goalie at the worst possible time.

Boudreau spared no one in his post-game comments.  Nor should he have.  All the bad trends the Capitals showed in their last two games -- individual play on offense, bad positioning on defense, allowing late goals -- permeated the entire evening. 

Washington has allowed six third period goals in the last three games.
"It's a really upsetting trend," Boudreau said. "Better stop in a hurry."
Asked if this was a game his team should have held on to, Boudreau snapped, "Anytime you have a lead in the last ten minutes of the game, you have to. If you're going to be a good team, you have to."
The Caps' vaunted power play was one-for-nine -- including two five-on-threes -- and actually surrendered two power plays back by taking penalties while having the advantage. 

"We played as individuals instead of a unit," Boudreau said. "That's what happens. We talked about it between periods. If you're going to play like individuals, you're going to get individual results.  Nothin's gonna happen."
Boudreau wasn't done criticizing his team, which came into this affair scoring five goals a game.
"The guys that are making mistakes are not first-year guys," he added.  "These guys should know what the hell they're doing."
He pointed to his third and fourth lines, saying, "If you're not going to score, you better not be on for any goals-against."
"Right now we're not playing good enough."
The collapse ruined Nicklas Backstrom's big night.  He had two goals, one a gift of a misplay by Rangers' goalie Henrik Lundqvist (25 saves) on a shot from center ice, and a power play marker, set up from nifty passing by Alexander Semin (goal, assist) and Brooks Laich, who drew the defense to the goal line and left the Swede alone in the slot.

Backstrom now has 10 points (2-8-10) in four games and leads the league in scoring, one point ahead of teammates Semin (5-4-9) and Alex Ovechkin, who came in as the league's leading scorer with five goals and four assists, but was kept off the scoresheet despite nine shots on goal.
Ryan Callahan and Ales Kotalik scored for New York in the second period.
Washington (2-1-1) has little time to think about the adjustments they have to make, as they travel to Detroit to face the always tough Red Wings Saturday evening.

Boudreau's comments speak for themselves, but with this offense, one-for-nine on the power play doesn't cut it.  Allowing third period goals aren't going to cut it, either.  Especially soft wrist shots that go through the five hole.  And if you want to have fun on offense, you also better get back on defense.

Because if they don't find the answers, the result, as we've seen three third periods in a row now, is not pretty.