WASHINGTON, DC — The frustration was palpable for the Anaheim Ducks, from Teemu Selanne hurling a water bottle in disgust at a large metal door near the locker rooms to coach Randy Carlyle's discontented tone in the postgame interviews.
"We had played so well earlier in the game. And then basically started to self destruct," said Carlyle, who watched his team squander a 3-goal lead and then a 1-goal lead with 42 seconds left in regulation against the Washington Capitals, who remained perfect on home ice (7-0-0) with a 5-4 victory.
Asked about his goalie Jonas Hiller's performance, Carlyle was terse.
"He's paid to stop the puck. It's as simple as that."
After a strong 30 minutes, backstopping the Ducks to a 3-0 lead, Hiller made a series of mistakes that slowly eroded his team's confidence while fueling a Capitals' comeback.
He allowed a five-hole goal to Joel Ward at 13:23 of the second period, and then had this misadventure 3:10 later in the period:
"He was indecisive," said Carlyle on Hiller's trouble near the trapezoid. "I thought he should have played the puck above the goal line. Got out of the net and stopped it. He let the puck come to him."
Hiller said he anticipated the puck would travel farther off the end boards, and that defensemen Sheldon Brookbank and Luca Sbisa would be back to help.
"Most boards, the puck just comes back. I was a little surprised that nobody was coming back because it was an icing. I thought 'I gotta play it', and the puck just wouldn't come back," said Hiller.
Should he have just taken the illegal touching penalty by playing the puck in the trapezoid?
"It's always easy to say afterward. Probably I should have. But in a 3-1 hockey game, you don't want to give them a power play," said Hiller.
After Corey Perry drew a penalty and scored on the power play at 9:13 of the third to make it 4-2, Hiller gave up another backbreaker: Having a Troy Brouwer shot bounce high off his glove and then behind him into the net just over 2 minutes later:
The Capitals tied the game at 19:18 and then won it 2:18 into overtime, both on Nicklas Backstrom goals.
"It was little things. Other days, none of the goals go in. [The puck] hits my glove, it goes over and in front of the net. The puck, on the second one, just didn't want to come over the goal line," said Hiller.
Hiller has now lost five of his last six starts, including twice in overtime. His five goals allowed matched his season high, which came in a 5-4 loss to Phoenix in which he was pulled.
"It's a game of inches and they're just not on my side right now," said Hiller. "All you can do is work harder. Battle more."
(Ed. Note: I sent out this tweet in the first period. I apologize to all of Duck fandom.)