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Barry Trotz calls out 'top guys' as Caps pushed to brink of elimination

Barry Trotz calls out 'top guys' as Caps pushed to brink of elimination

PITTSBURGH—If the Capitals are going to rally from a three-games-to-one deficit in their second round series against the Penguins, the team’s best players are going to need to be much better.

Alex Ovechkin knows it. And his coach knows it, too.

“It’s more right now that we have to find an extra way to get an extra goal,” Barry Trotz said after Wednesday’s 3-2 defeat at PPG Paints Arena. “We got to get an extra save. And our top guys, I thought, weren’t as good as they needed to be.”

Trotz didn’t name names. But he didn’t have to; the box score did it for him:

  • Ovechkin had as many shots on goal—two—as he did minor penalties.

  • Nicklas Backstrom did not record a shot on goal in 20:41.

  • Braden Holtby finished with a sub-.900 save percentage (three goals on 18 shots) for the third time in four games vs. the Pens.

  • The power play went 0-for-4, mustering five shots on Marc-Andre Fleury in 6:41. (Ovechkin negated a power play early in the third with an offensive slashing penalty.)

Sure, it didn’t help that the third and fourth lines didn’t chip in offensively, either. Or that the Caps’ blue line put forth its shakiest collective performance of the postseason on a night when they didn’t have Sidney Crosby to worry about.

[Related: 3 Key observations from Caps Game Four loss to Pittsburgh]

But it was the top players’ forgettable effort that underscored the disappointing result—and Trotz took aim with his unusually pointed postgame remarks.

“They had an opportunity to play well [and] I didn’t think our top guys really stepped up…which was very unfortunate for us,” Trotz said.

Asked about Ovechkin, Trotz declined to be specific.

“I would say our top players didn’t play as well as they need to be,” Trotz reiterated. “They need to be top players, and step up right now.”

Ovechkin, meantime, owned his lackluster effort, saying he didn’t play his game.

“Me personally,” he said, “I have to play much better.”

Ovechkin has one goal in four games against the Penguins. Overall this postseason, he’s tied for fifth in goals with four (in 10 games) and 15th in points with seven.

“Obviously it’s frustrating,” Ovechkin continued. “But we still have games left. The character on this team has been outstanding. I’m pretty sure we understand right now it’s Game 7 every game for us. We’re ready for that.”

Well, they had better be ready. The team will take Thursday off and return to the ice for practice Friday in Arlington, Va.

Game 5 is Saturday night, and the Caps’ margin for error is gone.

“One of the things in playoff hockey is you have to earn the right to play,” Trotz said. “It’s not a given. As I said, the Pittsburgh Penguins have played without a number of players all year and you were going to get their best game. And you needed our best game to beat them. And we knew that. They stepped up.”

Related: Decisive Game 4 goal comes after questionable penalty on John Carlson

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Capitals Extra Podcast: Trade deadline story time with Alan May

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NBC Sports Washington

Capitals Extra Podcast: Trade deadline story time with Alan May

Alan May knows a thing or two about the trade deadline.

Over the course of his NHL career, May was traded five total times, four at the trade deadline. He sits down with Rob Carlin on a special edition of the Capitals Extra Podcast to tell stories from his playing days about what it was like getting traded.

This one's a can't miss for hockey fans. You can listen to the episode here on the Capitals Extra page or with the player below.

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NHL Awards tracker: Where would the Caps' offense be without Ovechkin?

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USA TODAY Sports

NHL Awards tracker: Where would the Caps' offense be without Ovechkin?

The Hart Trophy is given to the player judged to be the most valuable to their team. With the Caps currently struggling in almost every aspect of the game, consider this: Just where would they be without Alex Ovechkin?

Washington ranks 10th in the NHL in goals per game with 3.05. Ovechkin leads the NHL in goals with 36. He has scored an incredible 19-percent of his team's goals. No one on the Caps is within 20 goals of the Caps' captain.

That's not a typo. Evgeny Kuznetsov ranks second on the team with 16 goals. No other team in the league has a larger separation between its top two scorers. In fact, only three teams have a difference that's in the double digits: Vancouver (11), San Jose (10) and New Jersey (10).

Ovechkin is almost singlehandedly propping up Washington as a top-ten offense. If you think about just where this offense would be without him, there's a pretty strong case to be made that Ovechkin is as valuable to his team this season as any other player in the league.

SEE THIS WEEK'S 2018 NHL AWARDS TRACKER HERE

Here are the Caps' hopefuls for awards this season:

John Carlson

In contention for: Norris

Carlson is fifth among all defensemen with 45 points, but his case goes beyond the numbers. With a blue line that has featured two rookies the majority of the season, an aging veteran in Brooks Orpik and that had to deal with an injury to Matt Niskanen, the Caps have asked a lot of Carlson this season and he has always been up to the task.

Alex Ovechkin

In contention for: Hart

Few players, if any, are as important to their team's offensive production and therefore its success than Ovechkin has been this season.

Check out who the top candidates are for the league's major individual awards in this week's 2018 NHL Awards Tracker!