WASHINGTON - Washington Capitals goalie Olie Kolzig made two desperate, back-to-back saves in the third period last night, but he couldn't make the turn fast enough to stop Sean Avery's wrist shot into the open left side of the net.
That goal, Avery's first of the season, turned out to be the game-winner at MCI Center in a 3-2 loss to the Los Angeles Kings.
"It's a broken record," said Kolzig, his voice shaking with emotion as his team fell to 3-11-1 to remain the worst team in the NHL. "I've never experienced anything like this as a pro or amateur. It's beyond frustrating. It's embarrassing. We're 3-11. Maybe we're not an 11-3 team, but 3-11? It's not X's and O's. It's what you have inside. I don't know what else to say."
Almost every night it goes like this for the Capitals. They fall behind early and then, as time is running out, they start clawing their way back only to run out of production time.
Washington has scored more than two goals only three times this season.
"We've got 60-some games to go," co-captain Brendan Witt said. "We have to come out of this as a team. One guy isn't going to do it for us. We all need to play 60 minutes and we don't do that. We get down and then pride kicks in when it's too late."
Los Angeles, 8-5-0-1 despite playing without three of its top six forwards because of injuries, scored the first goal. It earned a head shake of disgust from Kolzig as Trent Klatt finished a pretty series of unchallenged passes 4:26 into the opening period.
The Caps, who have lost 10 of their past 12, answered 74 seconds later when Robert Lang (two goals) put away the rebound of Jaromir Jagr's shot to tie the game, 1-1. But when the Caps returned for the second period, there was no more urgency than in the first period.
The tie was broken at 8:14 of the middle period when Klatt scored his second goal on a two-on-one odd-man rush to put the Kings up 2-1.
Washington had two power-play chances shortly after the goal, but they created nothing out of them.
"We have world class players on the power play and were not working hard to regain the puck," said Capitals coach Bruce Cassidy, who also lamented his team's lack of desperation with the game tied. "We need to go overboard to get the puck on the power play because we're struggling for goals."
Cassidy went into the locker room after the game and told his team - or was it a plea? - to simply play at 100 percent.
"I told them, `From 7 to 9:30 on game night, just work your [backsides] off and then we'll work to get better at practice tomorrow.' he said. "I think the fans would appreciate that."
Asked if he believed he has the kind of players with the fortitude to give that effort every night, Cassidy flinched.
"They're professionals," he said. "It shouldn't have to be asked. ... Between the second and third period ... I spoke to each one of them. There are winners in that room. Jagr has a [Stanley] Cup. Lang and [Peter] Bondra have gold medals. Others have been to the Cup Finals and still others have junior titles. They can't get so down on themselves. They have to act like winners and play like winners."
Los Angeles 1 1 1 - 3
Washington 1 0 1 - 2
First period-1, Los Angeles, Klatt 5 (Chartrand, Frolov), 4:26. 2, Washington, Lang 6 (Jagr, Doig), 5:40. Penalty-Battaglia, Was (tripping), 17:54.
Second period-3, Los Angeles, Klatt 6 (Chartrand, Frolov), 8:14. Penalties-Kwiatkowski, Was (interference), 3:17; A.Miller, LA (interference), 8:41; Pirnes, LA (holding), 15:41.
Third period-4, Los Angeles, Avery 1 (Laperriere), 6:19. 5, Washington, Lang 7 (K.Miller, Gordon), 14:12. Penalty-Bondra, Was (cross-checking), 19:19.
Shots on goal-Los Angeles 4-14-12-30. Washington 6-9-10-25.
Power-play opportunities-Los Angeles 0 of 3; Washington 0 of 2.
Goalies-Los Angeles, Cechmanek 7-5-0 (25 shots-23 saves). Washington, Kolzig 3-10-1 (30-27). A-11,397 (18,277). T-2:15.