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Caps had 'too much cheat' in loss to Penguins

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Caps had 'too much cheat' in loss to Penguins

Since clinching a playoff berth back on March 15, the Capitals have lost six of 11 games. Since clinching the Presidents’ Trophy on March 28, they’ve lost four of five.

And for the first time all season, they now know what it’s like to lose three games in a row, something that hasn’t happened since the second round of last year’s playoffs.

On the bright side, the Capitals clawed their way back from a 3-0 deficit to the Penguins Thursday night to send the game into overtime, where Sidney Crosby gave the Penguins their eighth straight victory with a breakaway backhander past Braden Holtby.

On the dark side, for two periods the Capitals looked like a team trying to hop on a runaway train.

“Way too much cheat in our game, not enough detail and not enough work,” Caps coach Barry Trotz said. “You can’t go around games, you gotta go through them and we didn’t go through them early.”

The Penguins looked like the hottest team in the NHL in the opening period, prompting a “little chat” from Trotz. Tom Wilson didn’t need a chat.

Trotz glued the third-line right winger to the bench after he took a boarding major on Nick Bonino 2:27 into the second period. Wilson never saw an even-strength shift after that.

Asked if there might be additional consequences for Wilson, like perhaps a game in the press box, Trotz quipped, “What, send him to jail? What do you want me to do? I think it’s a clear message.”

Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby, who allowed four goals on 35 shots and lost in overtime for the second straight game in his bid to tie Martin Brodeur’s record of 48 wins, said the Caps looked good for flashes.

“But we’re not going to last very long if we play like we did tonight,” Holtby said. “The work ethic wasn’t there, the execution wasn’t there. It was a big challenge tonight playing the hottest team in the league and hopefully we realize we’re a lot better team than that and we need to work. Things don’t come easy in this league.”

Things certainly have not come easy for Holtby, who on Tuesday experienced the anguish of blowing a 3-1 third-period lead to the Islanders and losing in overtime.  Thursday night, the Caps rallied from a 3-1 third-period deficit, only to see Crosby win it in OT.

“I think it's enough to talk about,” said Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin. “Of course we want to win for him, but let it go. Enough pressure for him.”

MORE CAPITALS: HOLTBY HARD ON CAPS

Trotz said he’ll need more overall production from his lineup if the Capitals hope to have a long playoff run.

“We’ve got some players that haven’t done much for us in the last little while and they’ll have to figure it out. We’re two games from the playoffs and if you’re not going you’ll probably be out or moved down the lineup. Because it’s the first one to four. You have no time to wait for guys to get going.”

Trotz didn’t name names, but …

  • Evgeny Kuznetsov has not scored a goal since March 1 (18 games) and picked up just his third assist in 10 games.
  • Justin Williams has just one goal and three assists in his last 11 games.
  • Jason Chimera has one goal in his last nine games.
  • Wilson has one goal in his last 18 games.
  • Andre Burakovsky’s game-tying goal was his first in nine games.
  • Jay Beagle has one goal in his last 16 games.  

One way or another, Trotz wants to see more when the Capitals visit the St. Louis Blues Saturday night.

“We’re playing teams in high gear right now and we’re not there yet,” Trotz said. “This has got to be a pretty good wakeup call. It has to be.”

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How Nicklas Backstrom saved the Capitals 3 different times in Game 5

How Nicklas Backstrom saved the Capitals 3 different times in Game 5

The Capitals found themselves in deep trouble on Saturday.

Game 5 at Capital One Arena provided Washington a golden opportunity to take a 3-2 lead in their 2018 Stanley Cup Playoff first-round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets. A loss -- another home loss -- would have been a devastating blow.

After battling back from a 2-0 series deficit, to lose in Washington would mean facing elimination in Columbus. Game 5 was the game the Caps needed and it would have slipped away from them if not for Nicklas Backstrom.

The Caps’ most underrated superstar -- the one who is constantly overshadowed by the likes of Alex Ovechkin and Braden Holtby -- took center stage on Saturday as he tipped a Dmitry Orlov shot past Sergei Bobrovsky at 11:53 of overtime to seal the victory for Washington.

“It was just a good shot from [Orlov],” Backstrom said after the game. “I thought before he had a chance to block it, and I got a tip on it, and it’s usually what happens in the playoffs. Tip goals or rebound goals. That’s the way it is. It was nice.”

Backstrom’s overtime goal capped off a three-point night for the veteran center, who also scored in the first period and assisted on a goal from T.J. Oshie.

The team ended up needing every one of his points.

From the start, Columbus outplayed Washington. With the series tied 2-2, a best-of-three mentality took over and the Blue Jackets pushed hard for the pivotal Game 5 win.

It is in those very moments that team needs its superstar players to step up. In Game 3, it was Holtby who stole the show to help Washington steal a win in Columbus.

On Saturday, it was Backstrom.

Columbus converted a shorthanded goal to seize a 1-0 lead in what was shaping up to be a dominant first period. A fluke goal from Backstrom, however, made sure the score was knotted up, 1-1, after the opening frame.

With the puck behind the goal line, Backstrom tried to slip a pass through the crease. Bobrovsky got a piece of the puck with his stick, but the amount of spin on the pass forced the puck to carom off the stick, off the back of Bobrovsky himself, and into the net.

“I was trying to make a pass,” Backstrom said. “Honestly, got lucky. I don’t know who came back-door there but I was trying for him. I’ll take it.”

After a back and forth game, the Blue Jackets came out swinging to start the third. Down 3-2, Columbus tied the game just 2:30 in and made a real push to win the game in regulation. Washington was outshot 16-1 in the third and looked like they had no push at all.

But the Caps looked like a different team when they took the ice for the extra frame. What happened in between periods?

“As I was leaving the room after the period, I could hear guys, the right guys, all saying the right things,” head coach Barry Trotz said.

When later asked if one of those guys was Backstrom, Trotz said, “Absolutely. He's one of the leaders on our team. They were all talking about let's make sure we're doing the right things. There's a lot of pride, lot of good leadership in that room.”

Whatever Backstrom and the other leaders said did the trick. Washington made a strong push in overtime leading to Backstrom’s game-winning goal.

This isn’t the first time Backstrom has delivered. Saturday’s overtime tally is the fourth of his career. That’s the most in franchise history and tied for fifth in NHL history.

Through his efforts on the ice, the Caps were able to erase a bad first period and steal the win in overtime. But it also took a big effort off the ice to get the job done.

“If you just look at the scoresheet, that doesn't say enough of about Nick Backstrom, his contribution from in the dressing room to on the ice to key moments to key faceoffs,” Trotz said.

“I've been on his soapbox about how complete a player he is and I never really worry about Nick Backstrom. He's got enough games under his belt, he's got enough stats to back it up and he's played huge minutes and he's one of our leaders. He's a tremendous hockey player.”

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John Tortorella guarantees series will return to Washington for Game 7

John Tortorella guarantees series will return to Washington for Game 7

After losing Game 1 and Game 2 at home, Alex Ovechkin declared "It’s going to be fun when we bounce back and going to tie the series and come back here and play Game 5 at home.”

Columbus Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella seems to be taking a similar tactic.

The Capitals won Game 5 in overtime on Saturday in a game that could prove to be emotionally draining for the Blue Jackets in a number of ways.

  • It was Washington's third straight win
  • Columbus was the better team for the majority of the game, but still took the loss
  • The Blue Jackets now face elimination despite holding a 2-0 series lead to start and losing only once in regulation

Tortorella has become famous for his fiery postgame press conferences in the past, including abruptly walking out after Game 4's presser when he declared "We sucked" to the media.

Saturday's was another fun one.

In a presser that lasted less than two minutes, Tortorella twice said, "We'll be back here for Game 7."

After such a draining game, Tortorella was asked how he would get them ready for what is sure to be an emotionally charged Game 6.

"I won't have to say a damn word to them," Tortorella said. "No. We'll be back here for Game 7."

The Blue Jackets will have to win Game 6 in Columbus to make that happen.

Barry Trotz was asked for his reaction after Tortorella's comments.

"What else are you going to say? That's good. He wants to get it out there, he believes in his team just as I believe in my team. It's our job for that not to happen."

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