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Gordo on hockey: Blues helped send Capitals into tailspin

Blues vs. Capitals

St. Louis Blues left wing David Perron (57) chases the puck between Washington Capitals center Evgeny Kuznetsov (92) and defenseman Dmitry Orlov (9) during the first period of a game at the Enterprise Center in St. Louis on Thursday, Jan. 03, 2018. Photo by Colter Peterson

The Washington Capitals aren't defending their long-awaited Stanley Cup with much vigor these days.

Losing twice to the Blues during an 11-day span (5-2 and 4-1) was a clear sign of trouble for that team. Overall, the Capitals have lost eight of their last 11 games, including five in a row.

They are 1-7-1 in their last nine games against Western Conference foes, with 45 goals allowed in those games. Washington's performance Sunday afternoon in an 8-5 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks was especially embarrassing — and the NBC broadcast crew called out the Capitals for it.

Needless to say, Capitals coach Todd Reirden was critical as well while assessing the effort in his postgame media session.

"A lot was going on in that game, and a lot of mistakes," Reirden told reporters. "They were able to convert on them, and then we got some opportunities and we got back into it. I loved our willingness to come back and stay with it, and then we make another mistake and it ends up in our net.

"It was a game of mistakes both ways, which sometimes you'll have in those early games, but not good enough from our end."

Goaltenders Braden Holtby and Pheonix Copley, a former Blues short-timer, have both stunk. And the Capitals have been a sloppy mess in their own zone.

"We continue to try to find the right combinations, the right ways that we can have success," Reirden said. "Winning streak, losing streak — you have to be better defensively. That always for our team is important.

"If you look back at giving up this amount of goals in this game (and the game in) Nashville, it's unacceptable and we've got to make sure we take care of the defensive zone first."

AROUND THE RINKS

Sportsnet analyst Nick Kypreos keeps pushing the Alex Pietrangelo-to-Toronto speculation. But the Blues have moved toward the edge of the playoff race, so GM Doug Armstrong can maintain high prices for all of his assets — especially Pietrangelo and Colton Parayko. ...

Given the well-documented impatience of the Stars management at this point of the season, Dallas could see additional roster changes. The Morning News noted that the Stars could create ample salary cap space by putting one or more of their wounded veterans (Martin Hanzal, Stephen Johns, Marc Methot) on long-term injured reserve. ... Another lagging Western Conference team, Colorado, could also look to add some scoring depth. The Avalanche are among those keeping an eye on the veteran forwards (Kevin Hayes and Mats Zuccarello in particular) the Rangers could offload before the trade deadline. ...

Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane has scored 70 points this season, just five fewer than he scored all last season. He has piled up 43 points in the 26 games since Chicago acquired center Dylan Strome from Arizona. ... Speaking of surges, Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews has eight power-play points in his last 15 games. He had just 17 power-play points in his previous 109 games. ... On the flip side, veteran Ducks center Ryan Getzlaf has scored just three points in his last 14 games, Jets winger Patrick Laine has just two goals in his last 16 games and Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews has one goal in his last 13 games. ...

The Oilers traded Jordan Eberle for Ryan Strome, then moved Strome to Ryan Spooner — then put Spooner on waivers after coach Ken Hitchcock had no use for him. Edmonton GM Peter Chiarelli's reign of error continues. ... Also on waivers in Edmonton is Ty Rattie, a former Blues prospect who took a few productive spins with Connor McDavid before falling out of favor. ...

The Maple Leafs have gone 9-9-2 since William Nylander rejoined the lineup on Dec. 6. after belatedly re-signing as a restricted free agent. His return has been subtraction by addition. ... Teams looking for front-line depth should contact the Coyotes about winger Richard Panik, who is playing on an expiring contract. Given the injury hits suffered in Arizona this season, moving some veterans for long-term assets might be a prudent play. ... Hiring Barry Trotz as coach has helped the Islanders far more than losing John Tavares to free agency has hurt it. One indicator: New York goaltender Robin Lehner is 11-1-0, 1.30 and 0.953 with two shutouts since Dec. 18. The Islanders have gone from worst to first in goal-against average since last season. They are in the hunt for a good playoff seed, so they could be a buyer at the trade deadline. ... Promising Flyers center Nolan Patrick finally came to life offensively, producing six points in a three-game surge. ...

The Senators have stepped up efforts to lock in potential unrestricted free agents Mark Stone and Matt Duchene. If the franchise can't get it done, both forwards could fetch big returns before the trade deadline as rental acquisitions.

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Jeff Gordon is an online sports columnist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

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