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How the Capitals continue 'trying to write our own history'

How the Capitals continue 'trying to write our own history'

PHILADELPHIA -- Exhale, Capitals fans, your team was never as nervous as you were. Honest. Really. Yup.

If you believe what was being said inside a victorious visiting locker room at Wells Fargo on Sunday afternoon following the Capitals’ series-clinching 1-0 win over the Philadelphia Flyers, there was never a doubt the No. 1 seed in the East would beat the No. 8 seed.

Not even when the Flyers rallied back from an 0-3 series deficit to force a Game 6.

“We’ve been saying all year it’s a different group,” said Caps goaltender Braden Holtby, whose second shutout of the series improved his league-leading GAA to 0.84 and his league-best save percentage to .968. “It’s a different regime and a different team completely. We’re trying to write our own history.”

“We’re a different team,” echoed Caps defenseman Karl Alzner when asked if there might be fears about returning to Washington for a deciding Game 7. 

“We have a lot of guys that have really, really good character and really good experience. That’s not what we were thinking. I know a lot of people see the same uniform on the ice all the time, but it’s different people; it’s different heads; different ways that we handle the pressure. I think we’ve done a good job all season with that.”

Alzner said the Caps’ dominance in Game 5, when they outshot the Flyers 44-11, was all they needed to know how this series would end.

MORE CAPITALS: HOLTBY PLAYING ON ANOTHER LEVEL

“We see how the series is going, we feel the way it is in the dressing room and we don’t let outside distractions get in our way,” he said. “We knew that if we just played the same way we did last game and get pucks to the net, one’s gonna go in. We did a good job in the D zone after that and we’re happy.”

They should be. The Capitals were clearly the better team in their first-round series against the Flyers, especially on special teams, where they went 8-for-27 on the power play and an incredible 24-for-25 on the penalty kill.

Afterward, Capitals coach Barry Trotz called the penalty kill a “difference maker” in the series. But so was the Caps’ attitude after allowing the Flyers back into the series with losses in Games 4 and 5.

“Obviously. when you get to a 3-0 lead you know it’s going to be tough to get the fourth one,” said Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin, who led all skaters woith 29 shots and 28 hits. “They don’t give us any easy games. They won two games in a row and they feel pretty sure about themselves. We found a way.”

T.J. Oshie called a “great series” that he imagined was “pretty fun to watch.”

Capitals right wing Justin Williams, who had a relatively quiet series with two assists and a minus-4 rating, said he thoroughly enjoyed his first series-clinching game with the Capitals.

“You play for moments like this, feeling butterflies and just enjoying the fight,” hew said. “It’s something we love as professionals. It’s why we play the game. One series down.”

And the next one – a second-round date with the Pittsburgh Penguins -- should be even more nerve-racking than the first.

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

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USA TODAY Sports

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

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Game 60: Capitals vs. Lightning Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

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USA TODAY Sports

Game 60: Capitals vs. Lightning Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

What: Washington Capitals vs. Tampa Bay Lightning

Where: Capital One Arena, Washington, D.C.

When: 7:00 p.m. ET

How to Watch: Capitals-Lightning will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (Channel Finder)

Live Stream: You can watch the Capitals-Lightning game on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page.

WHEN IS THE CAPITALS-LIGHTNING GAME?

The Capitals (34-18-7) take on the Lightning (39-17-3) Tuesday, February 20 at 7:00 p.m. ET in Washington.

WHAT CHANNEL IS THE CAPITALS-LIGHTNING GAME ON?

The Capitals-Lightning game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington. Coverage kicks off with Capitals FaceOff at 6:00 p.m. followed by Caps GameTime at 6:30 p.m. Stay with NBC Sports Washington for Caps Extra following the game, Caps Overtime at 10:00 p.m. and Caps in 30 at 11:00 p.m. for all your postgame coverage. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

6:00 p.m. — Caps FaceOff
6:30 p.m. — Caps GameTime
7:00 p.m. — Capitals vs. Lightning
9:30 p.m. — Caps Extra
10:00 p.m. — Caps Overtime
11:00 p.m. — Caps in 30

WHAT ARE THE PROJECTED LINES FOR THE CAPITALS-LIGHTNING GAME?

Here are the projected lines for the Caps-Lightning game:

Forwards
Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - Tom Wilson
Jakub Vrana - Evgeny Kuznetsov - T.J. Oshie
Brett Connolly - Lars Eller - Andre Burakovsky
Chandler Stephenson - Jay Beagle - Devante Smith-Pelly

Defensemen
Christian Djoos - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov - Matt Niskanen
Brooks Orpik - Madison Bowey

Braden Holtby starts with Philipp Grubauer as backup

Scratches: Alex Chiasson, Michal Kempney, Taylor Chorney

WHERE CAN I STREAM THE CAPITALS-LIGHTNING GAME?

The Capitals-Lightning game, as well as Caps GameTime and Caps Extra, is available to stream live here through NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and is available to authenticated NBC Sports Washington subscribers on desktops, tablets, mobile devices and connected TVs anywhere in the United States.

CAPITALS-LIGHTNING OPEN THREAD

Use the comment section below to discuss the game action with other Capitals fans. 

For all the latest Caps coverage, follow Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir, Capitals correspondent JJ Regan and the NBC Sports Capitals account on Twitter. Be sure check out our Capitals page and NBC Sports Washington's Facebook page.