Capitals must play 'playoff-style hockey' to turn things around

Capitals must play 'playoff-style hockey' to turn things around originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Just one week ago, the Washington Capitals left Boston with one of their most impressive victories of the season: a 2-1 win over the NHL-best Bruins.

But since then, Washington has dropped four straight games, all in regulation, the most recent a 4-1 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes in the Stadium Series on Saturday night. It was an ugly performance from the visitors, who were bumped out of the playoff picture for the first time since mid-December following the Islanders' win over Pittsburgh on Friday.

"The atmosphere of tonight, the outdoor game and being this stage, it was not the performance we wanted," head coach Peter Laviolette said.

Washington's recent skid has come at an inopportune time. With less than two months remaining in the regular season, the Capitals know they have no time to waste and must turn things around as soon as possible.

"Our playoff hockey probably starts in this next week here," T.J. Oshie said. "Otherwise, we're going to be on the outside looking in. It's more the realization we need everyone playing a playoff style if we're going to climb back into this thing."

Oshie makes a valid point. The Capitals' next three games this week are against a trio of opponents -- Detroit, Anaheim and New York (Rangers) -- that are in the playoff race. First up are the Red Wings, who are surging as of late and trail the Capitals by just two points.

In order for the Capitals to turn things around, the group must play with more energy, chemistry and confidence than they've shown the past week.

"We've got to get our confidence back," Tom Wilson said. "We've got to get our swagger back a little bit. It's tough when you lose a couple in a row, but we're going to regroup here, try and get the team together here and build on it because there's no time to waste. It's an important time of year and every point matters. This isn't good enough, obviously. We've got to get going here."

Every player that spoke following the Capitals' loss Saturday night echoed a similar sentiment: the team's recent play simply won't cut it.

"I think everything, to be honest with you," Nicklas Backstrom said when asked what needs to be addressed. "We're not close to being at our best. We've got to find a way to get that back."

"We need to help each other a little bit more, support the puck a little bit more, want the puck," Wilson added. "Like I said, it's just a little bit off."

It's worth noting that the Capitals have been far from full strength over the past week.

Captain Alex Ovechkin has been away from the team since Tuesday following the death of his father. Star defenseman John Carlson has been out since before Christmas after taking a puck to the face. Wilson just returned to the lineup on Saturday for the first time since Jan. 24, while Nic Dowd remains out.

The Capitals don't have time to wait to get to full strength before making a push. And even though the group is a little shorthanded, there's still the belief that there's enough talent to turn things around.

"Obviously, we're missing our No. 1 forward and No. 1 defenseman," Oshie said. "But the guys in the lineup are more than capable of getting us some wins while they're in. Might not dominate every game but we're very capable of getting wins. We haven't been playing good enough to do that."