Recent play is similar to the December slump

The Capitals finally got the fast start that they wanted Friday night. But that still did not equal any standings points, with the 4-2 loss to Vancouver a capper to a disappointing week.

That lends an air of desperation to Sunday afternoon's game against the Ottawa Senators at Verizon Center. Washington is 1-2-2 in its last five games, dredging up memories of last month's eight-game losing streak in which falling behind early became a nasty habit. The Caps trailed after the first period in eight of their 19 games between Dec. 1 and Jan. 12.

"You can't wait until you're down 3-1 every game until you start playing and start attacking," Caps forward Brooks Laich said. "You have to have that mentality right out of the gate and try and put teams away. That's what we used to do."

He's right. The Caps led the NHL in first-period goals in 2009-10 with 92. Then again, they led the league in goals, period. Since Dec. 9, Washington has topped more than three goals in a game just once. A feeble power play that has scored just four times in its last 52 attempts is the primary reason for that extended drought. A team that averaged 3.82 goals a game last season is now at 2.8. That is tied for 13th overall.

Caps notes
» Neither forward Alexander Semin (lower-body injury) nor defenseman Tom Poti (lower-body injury) skated at practice Saturday. Both are out for Sunday's game.
» Washington snapped an eight-game losing streak with a 3-2 win at Ottawa on Dec. 19. It trailed in that game 2-0 after the first period.
» Caps rookie center Marcus Johansson has scored three of his six goals this season in the last week.

"For whatever reason, we're waiting for the other team to dictate what we have to do instead of us initiating a game plan," Boudreau said. "That's obviously what we have to start doing. But it's a lot easier said than done."

The Caps lost some of the offense they do have when forward Eric Fehr was injured during Friday's loss to Vancouver. He collided with teammate David Steckel during a line change. Boudreau said Fehr will miss three to four weeks with an upper-body injury. He was seen with his right arm in a sling after practice Saturday. That means a recall from Hershey of the American Hockey League is necessary.

The Caps need to get healthy against the Senators on Sunday. Ottawa is 1-5-2 in its last eight games and sits 13th in the Eastern Conference with a 17-22-6 record with 40 points. That's 11 points out of a playoff spot. Washington has beaten the Senators twice already this season, including a 3-2 win at Verizon Center on Oct. 11. Alex Ovechkin scored the game-winning goal that night with 31 seconds left in overtime.