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After crushing loss, Caps look to feed the right wolf


After crushing loss, Caps look to feed the right wolf

In his first year as coach of the Capitals Barry Trotz has introduced to his players quite a few catch phrases.

One of them has become a mantra they could probably employ right about now.

“Feed The Right Wolf.”

Based on an old Native American tale, the phrase comes from a story a father is telling his son. Two wolves, the father says, live inside each of us – one good, one bad. The boy asks his father which wolf wins and the father replies, “The one you feed.”

After Friday night’s crushing 2-1 overtime loss in New York the Capitals now lead their best-of-seven playoff series with the Rangers three games to two. The Caps can clinch a berth in the Eastern Conference Finals with a win Sunday night at Verizon Center. Or, they could lose on Sunday night and head to MadisonSquare Garden for a winner-take-all Game 7 on Wednesday night.

“Everybody has two wolves in their body,” Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner said, pointing to a placard hung inside the visiting locker room at Madison Square Garden. “The right one and the wrong one. It just depends which one you give the power to.”

Today the Capitals find themselves confronted by those two wolves. One is asking them to feed off the negative energy of blowing a third-period lead with 1:41 remaining in regulation, then committing a turnover to lose the game in overtime.

The other asking them to feed off the positive energy of returning home to a raucous home crowd with a chance to go somewhere they haven’t been since 1998.

“It’s putting your energy in a place that’s going to best help the team,” Capitals center Brooks Laich said. “In the course of a playoff series you go through momentum swings. In a game there could be a bad call by an official, or a break not go your way and it’s all how you react to things and how you channel your energy and put it into the right wolf so that we can still be focused on our goal.”

On Friday night, the Caps had a goal by Joel Ward disallowed. They had an overtime pass by Curtis Glencross picked off in the neutral zone, resulting in Ryan McDonagh’s game-winning goal.

And now they are faced with turning the page and re-telling the story their coach first told them at the start of the season.

“It means making the right decisions when it comes to being disciplined, playing the system, not going off on your own page because that’s not the right thing to do,” Alzner said. “It’s kind of a mindset of thinking positive and that’s what the team has been trying to do. When we get scored against, it’s not, ‘Oh, shoot, we’re down a goal.’ It’s ‘Let’s get that back.’ It’s a positive outlook when things can get negative.”

“It’s a small little reminder,” Laich said, “that if a certain player or if the team starts coming off track, it’s just a small reminder to feed the right wolf and get back on track and get your focus on winning the hockey game.”

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NHL Power Rankings: The home stretch

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NHL Power Rankings: The home stretch

We are down to the home stretch. Only 10 games remain in the Capitals' regular season. Those 10 games will ultimately decide if the Caps finish in first place in the Metropolitan Division and who they will play in the first round of the playoffs.

Washington currently sits in first place in the division, two points ahead of the Pittsburgh Penguins and four points ahead of the Philadelphia Flyers. Of those 10 remaining games, only three come against teams currently in playoff position. The most critical of these comes on April 1 when the Caps travel to Pittsburgh in a game that could ultimately decide the division.

The Caps still hold a narrow lead in the standings, but where do they stand in the rankings? See this week's updated NHL Power Rankings here.

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3 stars of the game: A lethargic loss in Philadelphia


3 stars of the game: A lethargic loss in Philadelphia

Playing three games in four days takes a toll on even the fittest athletes, and it was their sluggish start that doomed the Capitals in a 6-3 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers. 

After being noncomittal about his starting goalie all weekend, Coach Barry Trotz put Philipp Grubauer in net. Grubauer ended up making 29 saves on 34 shots. Offensively, the Caps got goals from Alex Ovechkin, Chandler Stephenson, and John Carlson. Carlson's third period goal cut the Flyers' lead to two with a little over three minutes to go, but a Jakub Voracek empty-netter a few moments later was the nail in the coffin. 

Here are your three stars from the game: 

1. Travis Boyd had the play of the game for the Capitals. Boyd carried the puck into the Flyer's zone, cut through multiple defenders and fired a slick shot to a streaking Ovechkin, who burried the puck in the back of the net. Check it out: 

Not only was the play nice on its own, but it was Boyd's first NHL point. Not a bad way to get it. 

2. Shayne Gostisbehere​ got the Flyers going with his goal in the first period. The defenseman had one goal on five shots along with being an intimidating force in the defensive zone. After going six weeks without scoring, today's goal was Gostisbehere's second goal in three games. 

3. Wayne Simmonds was the best offensive player on the ice on Sunday, scoring twice - both in the final period. It was the 22nd and 23rd goals of the season for the 29-year-old winger. It was also the first multi-goal game for Simmonds since Opening Night, when he had two against San Jose. 

The Caps hit the ice next on Tuesday, when they welcome the Dallas Stars to the Capital One Center.