NEW YORK -- Washington Capitals coach Terry Murray couldn't have made it any clearer: Play defense. Hold the New York Rangers to 25 shots. Win a game. Win it ugly. But just win it.
The Capitals didn't win. They didn't hold the Rangers to 25 shots. They didn't even hold them to 25 shots in the first two periods. But they did play ugly.
The Rangers drilled Washington, 5-2, getting off 48 shots -- 40 of them coming in the first 40 minutes. The Rangers scored four power-play goals, three in the first 7:07 of the game to drive starting goalie Don Beaupre to the bench.
The Capitals are now 0-4, the first time in 10 years they've opened a season with four losses, and general manager David Poile saw more than he wanted to last night.
"There isn't enough space in your newspaper to tell you my assessment," Poile said. "No, I have never seen a worse hockey game, and yes, this is the worst game of the four we've played."
Poile said he is not considering any immediate trades, but added "there will be a point" when he will.
He had a 10-minute meeting with the team before leaving Madison Square Garden last night.
"It is going to take a lot of work, a lot of meetings and a lot of practice to get out of this," Poile said.
"But it's not the first time we've lost four in a row. We'll try different combinations. It just comes down to doing whatever it takes to get things going.
"Certainly we're not as bad as we've appeared in these four games -- in my opinion."
Murray wanted his team's offense to be generated from sound defense. But last night there was no sound defense -- and little offense.
Dimitri Khristich's second goal of the game on a five-minute power play at the start of the third period got the Capitals within 4-2, but that was pretty much the high point of the night.
The score came with 1:34 gone in the third with the Capitals holding a 5-on-3 advantage. Kevin Hatcher assisted on the goal.
The Capitals were supposed to batten down the hatches in this game, but before it was three minutes old, they had given up a power-play goal and would give up two more over the next four minutes.
Mike Ridley was called for hooking at 2:16, giving the Rangers an early advantage. Mark Messier scored his third goal of the season 20 seconds later by skating around defenseman Sylvain Cote and beating Beaupre.
At the five-minute mark, Kelly Miller was called for hooking. New York was just 14 seconds into the power play when the Washington bench was hit with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that gave the Rangers a 5-on-3 advantage.
The Rangers' Alexei Kovalev sent a blistering shot past Beaupre for a 2-0 Rangers lead at 6:02.
The goal ended one Capitals penalty, but New York continued to have a 5-on-4 advantage because of the unsportsmanlike conduct call, and Esa Tikkanen notched New York's third power-play goal at 7:07.
At that point, Murray pulled Beaupre and sent in rookie Olaf Kolzig, who came up big on several New York attacks. Those saves seemed to give the Capitals some life. With 9:17 left in the period they finally got off their first shot of the night, a weak attempt by Dave Poulin.
At 15:35, Ridley dug the puck out from along the boards and got it to Pat Elynuik out front and Khristich put Elynuik's rebound in the net.
The Caps quickly put New York back on the power play with 42 seconds left in the period, and though New York did not score, it did not improve the attitude of Murray, who was seen standing in the hallway seething at the end of the period.
It got worse for Washington 1:19 into the second period.
Defensemen Calle Johansson and Hatcher stood around the perimeter of the left circle and watched Adam Graves settle the puck, line it up and blow it past Kolzig for a 4-1 lead.
NOTE: Capitals LW Randy Burridge returned to the ice last night for the first time this season after being sidelined with a pulled groin.