SARASOTA, FLA. — LANDOVER -- It happens this way sometimes. A team has a flurry of chances and comes away empty, only to have the opposition storm down the ice for the winning goal.
Washington had the chances in the early going of the third period last night at USAir Arena, and New Jersey turned around and scored the winning goal on Neal Broten's power-play goal with 12:13 to play.
It was only 2-1, but as time wore on and Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur stood up to everything the Capitals could throw at him, it became apparent nothing the Caps could do would make a difference.
And nothing did -- not driving to the net late, or digging in the crease or fighting.
The Capitals are now in the midst of a three-game losing streak after the 2-1 loss.
"I don't think we have to push the panic button," said Capitals defenseman Sylvain Cote, who assisted on Washington's lone goal by Peter Bondra. "We've just got to settle down, get our head down and shoot on net. We've got to go for the rebound and crash the net and things will get fixed."
Washington goaltender Jim Carey was starting his 20th consecutive game for the Capitals. Even with back-to-back losses to Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, his goals-against average was still a league-leading 1.94.
Against the Devils, it crept a little higher. Unlike in the Pittsburgh game, Carey got better support in front of his own goal, but for the third straight game his team produced little offense.
After a 17-game run in which they had scored 3.8 goals a game, the Caps have now managed only one a night in three straight.
"The difference between our lack of goal scoring now and our lack of goal scoring earlier in the season is that we're going to snap out of it a lot faster this time," said Caps coach Jim Schoenfeld.
Tuesday night in Pittsburgh, Schoenfeld was angered by the lack of effort and unhappy that the players who are paid to score goals weren't producing.
Last night, he was pleased with his team's effort, even though shaking up the Capitals' starting lines could not shake out more goals.
Only the quick Bondra, who already led the league in short-handed goals with four prior to last night's game, scored.
Bondra rumbled into the Devils' crease and smashed his 24th goal 4:39 into the first period past a stunned Brodeur.
But one goal a night isn't enough.
"The goals are going to come," said Carey. "We'll start getting the lucky bounce or break."
Carey never saw the first goal last night, a shot by Sergei Brylin that glanced off the stick of defenseman Jim Johnson, floated high in the air and dropped behind the screened goaltender.
"The last thing I expect is to have it go over my head," Carey said. "It's tough enough stopping them on the ice, let alone having them drop in from the roof."
Less than a week ago, Washington was battling the Atlantic Division-leading Flyers. Now, three games later, the Capitals are struggling to hold on to the sixth rung on the Eastern Conference ladder.
NOTES: The Caps' Joe Juneau was scratched from the lineup because of a bruised triceps. . . . The Capitals also called up center Pat Peake from Portland.
New Jersey .. 0 .. 1 .. 1 .. -- .. 2
Washington .. 1 .. 0 .. 0 .. -- .. 1