The Capitals completed a historic collapse, losing to the Montreal Canadiens, 2-1, in Game 7 of the first-round series at Verizon Center on Wednesday night. Never before has a No. 1 seed lost to a No. 8 when leading the series 3-1, although the Caps join the 2008-09 San Jose Sharks as one of six teams since 1968 to lose in the first round after attaining the league's top record.
"Maybe we didn't work hard enough," said Washington Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom. "We have to look at that. We were first overall in the regular season and we can't even score a goal on the power play against Montreal? That's really bad. ... If you can't beat an eighth seed, maybe we have to figure that out."
The pratfalls for the Presidents' Trophy-winning Capitals were many this postseason including:
• going 1-for-34 on the power play, capped by a failure to score over the final 1:44 of regulation in Game 7;
• getting zero goals from Alexander Semin, who had 40 in the regular season, despite putting a league-leading 44 on net;
• a failure to score at least two goals in back-to-back home games for the first time all season;
• the inability of Mike Green, a finalist for the Norris Trophy who led the league as the top-scoring defenseman, to get a goal.
"I thought we had a good shot to win the Stanley Cup this year," said Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau, who fell to 1-3 in Game 7s since becoming the coach during the 2007-08 season. "I would have bet my house that they wouldn't have beaten us three games in a row. ... We all feel as low as we can possibly feel."
"He was great and he made some great saves," Backstrom said. "I think we weren't ready to go in front of the net and create traffic like we used to. That's something we've been working on the whole season. We have been scoring a lot of goals and we can't even score in the playoffs."
Alex Ovechkin, the NHL's two-time defending MVP, assisted on the Caps' lone goal of the game scored by Brooks Laich to finish with 10 points in the playoffs. Backstrom had nine points. Most of the rest of the Caps' stars struggled against a Habs squad that just squeaked into the postseason.
"It really hurts," Caps forward Eric Fehr said. "We thought we had a really good team and could make a good run. It seems like we had things going [well heading] into the playoffs. We had all the lines contributing. Come playoff time, we just couldn't get it all going at the same time."
Green took a cross-checking penalty after he lost the puck to Habs defenseman Andrei Markov late in the first period. Twelve seconds later, Marc-Andre Bergeron scored on the ensuing power play.
"He deserved it," Boudreau said "It wasn't a smart play."
Boudreau didn't commit to wholesale changes, but he expects some free agents -- a list that includes goalie Jose Theodore along with forwards Brendan Morrison and Eric Belanger -- may not be back next season. He also didn't think anything needed to be altered in his style of play, despite falling to advance past the first round for the second time in three seasons.
"It doesn't validate anything," Boudreau said. "This is the way we are built. If we had to make all these guys into checkers and play a trap game, I think it would have been a pretty boring team to watch and we wouldn't have been anywhere near successful as we were."