PITTSBURGH – For the past eight months the Capitals have been telling anyone who would listen that this team is different than the ones that disappointed their fans in the past.
Now they have a chance to prove it.
After a crushing 3-2 overtime loss to the Penguins Wednesday night at Consol Energy Center, which gave Pittsburgh a commanding 3-1 series lead, the Capitals were saying all the right things.
“It’s a totally different year,” said Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin. “Last year we (were) winning 3-1 against the Rangers and we lost. We just have to have the mentality of shift to shift, period by period, and try to turn it around. Try to win the next game.
“We have to take this experience and turn it around our way. I think it sucks, you want to (win) the game and tie the series, but overall I think we have to play our game.”
Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby, who stopped 30 of 33 shots on Wednesday and has allowed two more goals than rookie Matt Murray in this series, said the Capitals need to rely on what got them this far.
“We’re a good team,” he said. “We have the experience, the composure. It’s just a matter of bringing it to use now. We’ve got to keep pushing forward and hopefully the bounces will go our way sooner or later. Focus on the next game and all you can do it put your best effort out there.”
The Caps and Penguins played a pretty even game through two periods, with the Penguins taking a 2-1 lead on goals by Tevor Daley and Matt Cullen and the Capitals tying it on a second-period goal by John Carlson.
But with 2:34 gone in overtime, Penguins forward Conor Sheary threw a puck at the net that went off the heel of the stick of Capitals defenseman Mike Weber, who swiped at the puck and sent it directly to Patric Hornqvist. Hornqvist fired a shot between the pads of Holtby as he scrambled back to cover his left post.
“We were OK with (Weber) out there,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. “It was more of an unlucky play than anything. We had the puck a little bit earlier and sort of lost it. It sort of just tied him up and he moved his stick and it went right to Hornqvist. That’s the way it goes.”
Holtby slammed his stick in frustration as he left the ice, realizing the opportunity the Caps had just squandered with Penguins defenseman Kris Letang out of the lineup due to a suspension.
“It was tough,” Trotz said. “That’s why it’s sudden death. That’s what it feels like. We’ll have to deal with it.
“This group has dealt with a lot of things. They’ve handled adversity well all year and they’ll do it again. We dug ourselves a hole and we’ll have to see if we can dig ourselves out of it.”
The Caps have not trailed 3-1 in a playoff series since 2009, when they stormed back to beat the Rangers in seven games. But this road looks a lot steeper.
The Penguins managed to dodge a bullet by winning Game 4 without their top defenseman. And they have not lost three games in a row since late December, let alone three in a row.
“We’ll have to come up with a Grade A effort on Saturday night,” Trotz said. “The Verizon Center has been a good place for us. I have a lot of trust in this group. It’s shown a lot of resiliency, just as Mike (Sullivan’s) group has shown a lot of resiliency all year. We’ll have to prove it.”
Yes, they will.
MORE CAPITALS: WINNIK LEAVES ICE AFTER HIGH-HIT FROM MALKIN