Playing at home is supposed to be the thing that the Washington Capitals could fall back on as they attempt to reach the playoffs. On Friday night, though, all of the bad habits that have haunted them on the road came to roost at Verizon Center.

The New Jersey Devils put a 5-0 drubbing on the Capitals, another gut punch in a year marred by frequent flat performances and inconsistencies. With the significance of each game magnified, the players were at a loss to explain how they deflated so quickly and fought back so little.

"You hope that we play a lot better at this time of year and the race that we're in," defenseman Dennis Wideman said. "I don't know."

Washington (32-27-5), which sits in ninth place in the Eastern Conference with 69 points, entered this contest excited about the possibility of moving up the standings over the weekend. The opportunity seemed ripe with the Capitals coming off a three-game winning streak and with three games in hand over Winnipeg, the team they trailed by just one point for the eighth and final playoff spot. But games in hand only matter when they result in a victory.

Instead, the Capitals were left with a loss that had players questioning their collective resolve, critiquing their ability to play with pride, and further evidence of the team's deficiencies at this late stage of the season.