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Why Capitals set unrealistic goal for this season


Why Capitals set unrealistic goal for this season

Tonight in Ottawa, the Capitals will try to continue a trend that at the start of the season seemed next to impossible.

Back in September, Caps coach Barry Trotz added what seemed like an unreachable goal to his list of team incentives: going the entire season without back-to-back losses. Technically, the Caps have failed to reach that goal. They have suffered consecutive losses three times this season.

But they have yet to lose back-to-back games in regulation, a feat that has not been accomplished since the 1976-77 Montreal Canadiens and a feat that will be put to the test again tonight against the Senators (6:30 p.m., Pregame Live, CSN).

“I thought this team was capable of it,” said Trotz, who saw his team suffer a 6-2 setback in Pittsburgh on Sunday. “I thought we were a good enough team and a deep enough team to pull it off, so we added it to the repertoire.

“I didn’t know in the past if we were capable of doing that. I just felt this team, the way it was built, I thought it would be a pretty good challenge for them.”

Following regulation losses the Caps are 13-0-1 this season and have outscored opponents 49-24 in those games, holding opponents to two or fewer goals in 12 of those 14 games.

“Obviously, we bought into it,” said Capitals right wing Jay Beagle, who is expected to drop from the top line to ther third line tonight against the Senators. “Losing two in a row can turn into three and you’re not playing within yourselves anymore because you’re trying to get out of that slump.

“I think it’s been huge. Once we lose one we’re always reminded, ‘Hey we don’t lose two in a row.’ We get refocused and make sure we get that win. We go a lot harder in that second game and make sure we fight for it.”

The goaltending of Braden Holtby has a lot to do with the Caps’ ability to bounce back. In games following his own losses this season, Holtby is a perfect 12-0-0 and has allowed just 21 goals, never more than two in a game.  Holtby is expected to get his 59th start of the season tonight and is seeking his 44th win, four short of the NHL single season record held by Marty Brodeur (2006-07).

It will be interesting to see how Holtby, who allowed five goals on 19 shots on Sunday, and the Capitals respond to their most lopsided loss since the second game of the regular season.

“I think it’s very important that you don’t let things slide,” Trotz said. “’Hey, we lost two we’ll get it back. We lost three, we’ll get it back.’ Let’s stop things that are going wrong. You can walk away sometimes saying, ‘We played great, but we lost.’ And then you lose the next game and the next game and all of a sudden you’ve lost three games when you’ve played OK.

“Whether we play good or bad, if we lose a game the next game is the most important and I think that’s very important for preparation for a playoff series. You lose a game, let’s not lose two. Always try to win your next game up. Always try to win our last game of the season. And if you do that, you have a chance.”

RELATED: Why the Caps shouldn't panic after loss to Penguins

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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."