WASHINGTON - -New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist gifted a goal to Nicklas Backstrom early in the third period and then the center scored again a few minutes later to put the Washington Capitals ahead.
It should have been enough. It wasn't.
Rangers sniper Marian Gaborik scored two goals of questionable quality on Jos? Theodore in the span of 2 minutes, 33 seconds to send the Capitals to their second consecutive loss, 4-3 at Verizon Center.
"Anytime you have the lead [late] in the game, you have to [win] if you're going to be a good team," a furious coach Bruce Boudreau said. "We've blown two leads like that and almost a third in four games. It's a really upsetting trend that better stop in a hurry."
While Theodore does not deserve all of the blame for the loss, which dropped the Capitals to 2-1-1, Boudreau said he has to stop both of Gaborik's goals. Theodore was good for the first 40 minutes and finished with 25 saves. But his third-period meltdown will do nothing to end the goaltending debate in Washington.
"Both of them were top of the circles," Boudreau said. "Those are the ones in the third period you've got to stop. You have to stop them. He kept us in the game for most of the game, but those ones - goals three and four - that you've got to stop."
Although the season is only four games old, frustration is already running high. Boudreau, who is normally affable after wins and losses, grew agitated in the post-game news conference, snapped at one question, then left the podium briskly.
But before he departed, he said there was plenty of blame to spread around.
Although the Capitals' power play scored once, it was 0-for-7 before Backstrom put his team ahead 3-2 after firing a centering feed from Brooks Laich past Lundquist (25 saves). Earlier in the period, Backstrom scored from the red line on a dump-in that caught Lundqvist napping deep in his crease.
But instead of clamping down, Gaborik beat Theodore from between the faceoff circles just 18 seconds after Backstrom's second goal to tie the game at 8:09.
About two minutes later, fourth-line wing Boyd Gordon was whistled for tripping and Gaborik, who was permitted far too much time and space, snapped a shot through Theodore to restore the Rangers' lead.
The Capitals got another power play, courtesy of a trip by Donald Brashear. But once again, the unit came up empty.
"We didn't work like usual," Backstrom said of the power play. "We tried to play too cute and too difficult. We need more shots on the net. They wanted to win a little bit more than us, especially in the third period. We had a 3-2 lead."
Boudreau said of the power play, which squandered 1:33 of five on three time: "If you're going to play like individuals, you're going to get individual results and nothing is going to happen."