Some numbers that emphasize the Caps' struggles over their previous 25 games before Thursday's night's game against the New York Islanders: Since a Dec. 2 loss at Dallas -- 21 games in all -- Washington trailed after the first period 11 times and had been outscored in the first period 19-9. It held the lead after 20 minutes of play in just five of those games.

The opposition has scored first 15 times. In eight different games the Caps allowed a goal in the first eight minutes of play. Six times they've given up a goal in the first four minutes, including one 72 seconds into Sunday's game vs. Ottawa and another 91 seconds into Tuesday's loss at Philadelphia.

The players keep emphasizing better starts. But you can see the frustration in their eyes when asked about the problem. Eyes dart, jaws set, heads shake. They don't know why it keeps happening any more than fans do. It doesn't help that Washington keeps leaving points on the board, either. After a 5-0 start in games that went past regulation, the Caps are now 1-8 since Nov. 13.