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Caps miss golden opportunity in Game 4 loss

Caps miss golden opportunity in Game 4 loss

With no Kris Letang for the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 4, all signs pointed to the Washington Capitals evening up the series at two games. Instead, the Caps were handed a 3-2 overtime loss and now head back to Washington on the verge of elimination.

It was a golden opportunity missed by the Caps, even if the players don't want to admit it.

"They have lots of other guys that are good too," Nicklas Backstrom said. "I feel like they’re a good team."

"Whenever you lose a game, it’s obviously an opportunity missed but it had nothing to do with them missing some of their players," Jay Beagle said. "It was just a matter of we needed to win the game and get the split here and head back to our barn."

RELATED: FIVE STATS TO KNOW AFTER CAPITALS' GAME 4 LOSS TO PENGUINS

Whether the Caps want to acknowledge it or not, the impact of a player like Letang is undeniable.

Letang, Pittsburgh's top defenseman, was suspended for Game 4 due to a high hit he delivered to Marcus Johansson in Game 3. While everyone knows about the Penguins' star forwards like Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, Letang remains one of the team's most important players. Through the first three games of the series, he has averaged over 32 minutes per game. That means Pittsburgh, already playing without Olli Maatta who has been out since taking a high hit from Brooks Orpik in Game 2, had to somehow replace a defenseman who has incredibly been averaging over half a game in ice time.

Losing a player like that is felt up and down the lineup.

"The six defenseman had to play a few more minutes than we're used to," Ben Lovejoy said.

"Obviously without Tanger on the back end, the way the 'D' played tonight to give us a chance, that was huge," Sidney Crosby said. "A lot of guys thrown into different positions and they came up big for us."

The players may not have wanted to admit it, but Barry Trotz knows his team missed an opportunity on Wednesday.

"We didn’t take advantage of it," Trotz said. "...When Kris got the suspension we knew they were going to rally. They didn’t play their best game [in Game 3] and everybody had to step up on their side and I thought they did."

Now facing elimination, the Caps will somehow have to find a way to win their next three games against a Pittsburgh team that will be getting its best defenseman back for Game 5.

"We're excited to have Kris back," Lovejoy said. "He should be well rested after tonight. We're expecting him to play 44 to 48 minutes in Washington."

MORE CAPITALS: CAPS NEED TO REWRITE SAME OLD SCRIPT

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Capitals place Taylor Chorney on waivers, which could signal something, or nothing

Capitals place Taylor Chorney on waivers, which could signal something, or nothing

When the Capitals acquired defenseman Michal Kempny on Monday, that put the team at the maximum of 23 players on the roster including eight defenseman.

Another move seemed likely and the Caps made it on Tuesday by placing veteran blueliner Taylor Chorney on waivers.

Teams now will have 24 hours to potentially claim Chorney. Should he clear at 12 p.m. on Wednesday, it is expected that he will be sent to the Hershey Bears of the AHL. Whether he is claimed or sent to Hershey, his entire $800,000 cap hit will no longer count against the Capitals' salary.

One important thing to note, however, is that placing Chorney on waivers was not required in order for Washington to remain under the salary cap.

Having eight defensemen would mean scratching two every game — assuming the team does not dress seven and after that failed experiment in last year's playoffs, why would they — which means it would be a struggle to make sure everyone gets consistent playing time in the final weeks of the season.

Perhaps placing Chorney on waivers is the team trying to get him more playing time to keep him sharp in case the team suffers injuries on the blue line and he is called upon in the playoffs.

Or perhaps it could mean something else.

RELATED: RANKING THE CAPITALS' TOP PROSPECTS

Chorney played on Feb. 15, but that was during the mentor's trip. Barry Trotz's policy for those trips is to get everyone in at least one of those two games. Before that, Chorney had not played since Jan. 2. It certainly seems like the team was comfortable with him being the designated No. 7 and was not all that concerned about getting him regular playing time before now.

When asked if the Kempny trade would mean any roster moves, Trotz said Monday that he was not sure and hinted that perhaps more moves could be coming from general manager Brian MacLellan. Moving Chorney's salary off the books does not clear much cap room, but it does clear some.

Perhaps MacLellan has another move up his sleeve before Monday's trade deadline.

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Michal Kempny excited to move from last place Chicago to first place Caps

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Michal Kempny excited to move from last place Chicago to first place Caps

On Sunday, Michal Kempny was a defenseman struggling for a spot in the lineup for a team poised to miss the playoffs for the first time since 2008. On Monday, he became potentially an important piece on the roster of the first place Capitals.

The last few days have been quite the whirlwind for Kempny who tallied an assist for Chicago on Saturday in a 7-1 blowout against what is now his current team. While the Blackhawks may have gotten the better of Washington that night, Kempny is excited about the postseason opportunity that now lies in front of him.

"Nobody knows what's happening in Chicago, but I'm really happy and I'm really glad that I can be here," Kempny told reporters on Tuesday after his first skate with the team. "There is option of play a playoff and I'm very happy for it."

RELATED: WHERE MICHAL KEMKPNY FITS IN THE CAPS' LINEUP

The 27-year-old Czech defenseman played only 31 games for the Blackhawks this season, but considering Washington's need to shore up its defense before the trade deadline and the team's willingness to give up a third-round pick to acquire him, it is likely he will have a much more significant role with the Caps.

"I thought that I [was] going to get more space on the ice and more ice time, but I didn't play more than half games," Kempny said of his decision to originally sign with Chicago. "But now I'm here and I'm really glad that I'm here. Washington is amazing city and great organization and I hope I will get a chance to access myself on the ice more than in Chicago."

Kempny will not play in Tuesday's game against the Tampa Bay Lightning, but did say he expects to play Thursday when the team visits the Florida Panthers.

When he does get into the lineup, it is unclear just how big a role he will play initially or how the team foresees utilizing him going forward. He is a left-shot defenseman and did tell reporters he prefers to play on that side. It seems unlikely the team would acquire him just to put him on his offside.

As of now, however, everything regarding his role in Washington is up on the air.

"I need everything settle down a little bit," he said. "New teammates, new people around here."

MORE CAPITALS: MEET MICHAL KEMPNY