WASHINGTON -- The once-rapturous fans of the Washington Capitals were as bitter and jaded as a lifelong Maple Leafs follower Thursday, angry about their team's historic collapse against the Montreal Canadiens in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
"I am disgusted and disappointed," said Paul Parfomak, 43, an energy policy specialist at the Library of Congress who is such a diehard Caps fan that he often bundled up his two young sons to watch the team practise in nearby Virginia.
"It was hard to watch that pathetic power play and not feel disgusted."
In a city better known for its power brokers than its power plays, the regular-season triumphs of the mighty Washington Capitals had sparked dreams of Stanley Cup glory and a feverish love affair with Canada's biggest sport.
The NHL's best regular-season team sold out every game this year. Capitals jerseys were a common sight not just in the city itself, but in the sprawling D.C. suburbs in Maryland and Virginia.
But on Thursday, a seething lover's spat was in full throttle after the squad became the first No. 1 team to blow a 3-1 series lead in the Stanley Cup playoffs to a No. 8 seed.
"Collapse With a Capital C," read the headline in the Washington Post. Columnist Tracee Hamilton also levelled the blame at team captain Alex Ovechkin, the big Russian who's considered by some to be the best player in the game.
"Was this series a referendum on Ovechkin and his place in the hockey galaxy? The answer is probably yes," Hamilton wrote. "When you are so clearly the face of the franchise, and the franchise so clearly fails, what does that say about you?"
Others shared in the Ovechkin bashing.
"Ovechkin must be the Russian word for over-rated," wrote one reader on ESPN.com.
Fans flooding the NHL's Capitals web page also called for the firing of Bruce Boudreau, whom they said had been embarrassingly out-coached by Habs helmsman Jacques Martin. But they saved their choicest words for the superstar Russian whose jersey number has earned him the sobriquet "The Great 8."
"It took him six games and 2 3/4 periods to finally figure out that he couldn't shoot the puck through the defenceman's legs without it getting deflected or blocked," wrote Rob Besser.
"He finally tried to skate around the last defender, which he did successfully, and got a decent shot on goal."
Parfomak's wrath wasn't directed so much at Ovechkin, but the journeymen forwards on the team's second and third lines. Players like Alexander Semin and Mike Green, he said, failed spectacularly under pressure.
Semin led the team in shots on goal, but never scored against the Habs. Green was also unproductive, and his penalty at the end of the first period Wednesday night resulted in a power-play goal by Marc-Andre Bergeron from which the Capitals never recovered.
"We deserved to lose," Parfomak said. "Many of our leading scorers choked and did not produce. They all failed to score. Our second and third lines just didn't show up. Our defence was good, our goaltending was good, but those guys blew it."
Washington's power play was also abysmal, he pointed out -- 0-for-3 in Game 7 with three shots, and one-for-33 in the series.
Rather than firing Boudreau, Parfomak said, it's Semin who should be facing the chopping block.
"You can't put it on Boudreau that the power play was so awful. How could the power play be so bad and how could some of our leading scorers so utterly fail at putting the puck in the net?" he said.
"My personal belief that Semin's going to have to go. He really hurt himself. We pay him an awful lot of money to not score during the playoffs."
The Caps themselves were equally despondent.
"It looks like we're not good enough," said Swedish centre Nicklas Backstrom.
On his blog on Thursday, Capitals owner Ted Leonsis wrote: "To fall short so early in the process this year is quite humbling."
He added: "I believe our hockey IQ seemed low this series and we didn't adjust well on the ice to the new schemes coming our way."
But he also said the team won't "do anything rash or make any decisions out of emotional angst."