If the Capitals are going to make some history in these Stanley Cup playoffs, they are going to have to overcome some of their own.
Ten times in their playoff history the Caps have trailed a best-of-seven series three games to two. Eight times they were on the wrong end of the handshake line, losing Game 6 five times and Game 7 three times.
But that also means that twice they managed to fight back to win.
They did it in 1988 when a gritty center named Dale Hunter beat Philadelphia goaltender Ron Hextall in overtime of Game 7 to erase a 3-1 series deficit. And they did it in 2009 when Sergei Fedorov beat a guy named Henrik Lundqvist with the Game 7 winner, which also erased a 3-1 series deficit against the Rangers.
Can these Capitals carve their own path immortality after Monday nights crushing 3-2 overtime loss at Madison Square Garden. Can they rebound from a game in which the Rangers snatched victory from the jaws of defeat with 6.6 seconds remaining in regulation and Joel Ward anguishing in the penalty box?
Were about to find out.
We dont change, Brooks Laich said Tuesday when asked about the Capitals mindset heading into Wednesday nights win-or-go-golfing Game 6 at the Verizon Center.
We keep moving forward. Would we have liked to have Game 5? Sure. But I think we played a good game. We were six seconds away from winning. Well rebound and bounce back tomorrow.
The Caps have given no reason to doubt they will. After each of their five playoff losses this spring, they have come back to win the next game. Rookie goaltender Braden Holtby has gone 27 straight NHL games without suffering consecutive losses.
If there is one thing you can say about the Capitals in the post-season its that they have become predictable. Eleven of their 12 playoff games have been decided by one goal, so there is no evidence to suggest Wednesday nights game will be a blowout by either team.
Laich said the reason for the consistency is the newfound demeanor of the team.
I just think we control our emotions a little better, he said. Even when we win were not bouncing off the ceiling; its more of a business atmosphere. And when we lose we know we can bounce back. Were never too high, never too low. Were pretty composed.
How much of that comes from the man behind the bench, who played in 186 career Stanley Cup playoff games?
A lot of that comes from Dale, Laich said. Look at his comments after Mondays game. Hes not panicked. Stuff happens. Good breaks, bad breaks. Its how you react to it. Weve been down before and come back. We approach tomorrow the way we always do, like its one hockey game.
Laich wasnt alone in his resolve. Teammates Mike Green, Roman Hamrlik and Nicklas Backstrom all used the phrase hockey play, a Hunterism used so often by the head coach that it draws chuckles from the media.
The Capitals spent Tuesday breaking down video from Tuesday nights game, but they didnt rewind the Rangers game-tying and game-winning goals in super slow motion to see just how close Holtby was to covering the puck before Brad Richards whacked in the game-tying goal. Or how close Laich and Matt Hendricks were to blocking Marc Staals game-winning shot. Or how close Backstrom was to giving the Caps a 3-1 lead on a backhander that grazed off Henrik Lundqvists arm and off the crossbar.
Thats for us to agonize over.
It is what it is, Green said. Thats playoff hockey. The urgency and mentality and focus are still the same for Game 6.
You just need to refocus and make sure you put it behind you, Hamrlik said. The last time we lost in triple OT we came out harder.
You cant second-guess yourself, Laich said. Its easy for you guys to say what might have changed things, but its an intense hockey game. Its a game of inches and if you like it or not you cant change it.
The only thing the Capitals can change now is the outcome of the series. And that can only happen with a win Wednesday night at the Verizon Center.
Last night was a game we needed, Green said. Now well have to go back to New York for a Game Seven.