LANDOVER -- Washington coach Jim Schoenfeld likes to say the Capitals win as a team and lose as a team. Last night, there was certainly enough blame to go around when the Boston Bruins came out of nowhere for a 4-3 victory.
The Capitals appeared to be in control with 14 minutes to play. They had a 2-1 lead and things were going nicely.
Then the Capitals went to pieces as the Bruins scored three goals in 2:55 of the third period to take the lead and end a three-game losing streak.
Capitals forward Joe Juneau lost the puck along the boards with 13:46 to play, and Boston center Jozef Stumpel went down on one knee in the right circle to blast the puck past Washington goalie Jim Carey, who never made a move to save it.
"There was no sense of desperation or commitment from the beginning, and that attitude was maintained for 60 minutes," Schoenfeld said. "We had a few guys who worked hard, but as a team, we weren't willing to pay the price.
"The way we played, a bad break could beat us. And Jimmy not handling the puck was the bad break, but it shouldn't have come down to that."
Just 1:03 later, Carey saved a hard blast by Mariusz Czerkawski, but failed to glove the rebound. Caps defenseman Joe Reekie rushed to try a sweeping stick clear, but was an instant too late, as Ted Donato slapped the puck cross ice to a wide-open Kevin Stevens, who shot into a virtually wide-open net.
And then, with 10:51 to play, Boston defenseman Don Sweeney won a battle for the puck with Caps defenseman Sergei Gonchar that started a Bruins attack that Sandy Moger finished with a wrist shot that caught the inside of the far post and bounced in for the 4-2 advantage.
Capitals right wing Peter Bondra scored his second goal of the night with 1:21 left to bring the Caps back within one.
Washington (9-5) went with a sixth attacker over the final 47.2 seconds, but Boston goalie Blaine Lacher, who already had made 23 saves last night, did not see another shot.
The Boston win was the first against the Capitals since March 27, 1994. It also was the first time in two years the Caps have lost after taking a second-period lead.
"We were a desperate club and we played like one tonight," said Boston coach Steve Kasper, whose team is 4-7-2. "The encouraging thing is that we kept our composure. It was a win this team desperately needed."
The Capitals saw their string on 34 power-play kills end in the second period, when Bruins right wing Cam Neely scored his seventh goal of the season on Boston's third power-play opportunity of the night.
Neely drove in alone on Carey and put the puck between his knees.
Carey had stopped Kevin Stevens, one-on-one, with a wrist save a minute before Neely got his goal to tie the game at 1-1 with 5:53 to play in the second period.
Earlier in the period, Caps defenseman Joe Reekie and Boston's right wing Steve Leetch exchanged blows with Leetch getting the worst of it, as he was given two minutes for instigating, five minutes for fighting and a game misconduct, putting the Caps on the power play with 8:52 gone.
The Caps failed to take advantage of it, as they would on all four of their power plays in the first two periods. But at 8:24, Carey did get to touch the puck, a rare occurrence given the Bruins had just six shots through the first 32 minutes.
Washington got a strong shot from defenseman Sergi Gonchar with 2:01 left, but Lacher was able to bring his knees together just in time to save the puck.
The Capitals, however, continued the attack and with a minute to go, Washington's Peter Bondra made a spin move for a shot that pulled Lacher to his left for a diving save. The puck bounced out into the slot, where Caps defenseman Calle Johansson slapped it back over the flailing Lacher for a 2-1 Washington lead.
NOTES: Defenseman/forward Jim Johnson (wrist ligaments) was assigned to the injured reserve yesterday. . . . The Caps play back-to-back games this Friday and Saturday, at Toronto and home to Chicago, respectively, and then will show up here at 2 p.m. Sunday to demonstrate their hockey skills in the Topps NHL SuperSkills contest. Admission is $10 and for that money, every fans will get a free ticket to a future game. The proceeds from the event go to the Children's Cancer Foundation.