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Why Caps are confident they can get it done at home

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Why Caps are confident they can get it done at home

PHILADELPHIA – To help settle the rapid heart palpitations that followed Wednesday night’s 2-1 loss to the Flyers in Game 4 of their first-round playoff series, Capitals fans need to remember this:

Since the advent of best-of-seven series, of the 183 teams NHL teams that have gone up 3-0 in a playoff series, 179 of them have gone on to win.

That’s roughly 98 percent. And from the sights and sounds of the visiting locker room Wednesday night, the Capitals don’t plan on being in that 2 percent.

“It’s not going to be easy, obviously,” Alex Ovechkin said after being held to just two shots on goal with another four blocked. “You’re not going to win every series 4-0. We’ll forget about it and move forward.”

The Capitals are now 14-30 all-time in playoff clinching scenarios and will get another chance to close out the Flyers on Friday night at Verizon Center, where the Caps went 29-8-4 in the regular season and are 2-0 in the playoffs.

Caps right wing T.J. Oshie, who scored his first playoff goal as a Capital, said that if the Caps play Game 5 the way they did in the third period of Game 4, they should come away winners.

“We’re confident, we’re good here,” Oshie said with a smile. “It’s playoffs. We expected them to have a good pushback.  We have an outstanding team in here. We have a lot of guys that are extremely focused and cool under pressure. We’re going to go into Game 5 and try to take care of business.”

The Capitals outshot the Flyers 32-25, including 13-4 in the final period, but Capitals coach Barry Trotz said they made Flyers goaltender Michal Neuvirth look good by letting him see nearly ewvery shot he faced.

Oshie agreed.

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“They had two shots Holts couldn’t see and we had one shot with a lot of traffic in front and me grabbing it and pulling it out of the pile,” Oshie said. “In playoff time this is how goals go in.” 

Unlike in Game 3, when the Caps were awarded nine power plays and converted on five of them, the Caps and Flyers each saw just two power plays in Game 4, with the Flyers netting their first power-play goal of the series on a point shot by rookie defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere.  

Capitals goalie Braden Holtby said he thought there could have been more penalties, considering the physical nature of the game. The Flyers dished out 43 hits to the Caps’ 38. Brayden Schenn was again the catalyst with a team-high seven hits, including one each on Karl Alzner and Matt Niskanen on the same shift.

But the play that may have angered the Caps most was a two-handed cross-check to the back of Evgeny Kuznetsov’s right knee with just under 6 minutes left in the second period.  

 “The way the game was, especially, there should have been more power plays. But it’s out of our control. Hopefully, the refs protect our players better and make sure guys are safe out there.”

Holtby said he felt fine throughout the game, even though the Caps called up veteran goalie Dan Ellis from Hershey for a few hours. 

As for the Flyers, they seem pretty confident they can get a win in Washington on Friday and force a Game 6 back in Philadelphia on Sunday.

“We’re not too worried about digging out of a 3-0 hole right now,” Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said. “We came here today to win a hockey game and now we’ve got to go on the road into their building and we’ve got to win a hockey game. It’s pretty simple.

“Our team has had a real next-up mentality all year long and it’s part of the reason why our group has shown the resiliency it has. Tonight is one win and it’s nothing more special than that.”

Trotz was similarly confident.

“We’re up 3-1,” he said. “We’ve just got to make sure we take care of business at home.”

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Braden Holtby puts loss to Tampa solely on his own shoulders

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USA TODAY Sports

Braden Holtby puts loss to Tampa solely on his own shoulders

The mood in the Capitals locker room following a 4-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday was one of frustration. Forty minutes of strong play from Washington amounted to nothing because of a disastrous opening first period in which the Lightning jumped out to a 3-0 lead.

No one in the locker room was more frustrated than Braden Holtby.

"Obviously you don't want to go down three," he told reporters after the game. "That's on no one else but me. The third goal, especially the third, fourth goal, that's the difference in the game. I thought we played a really strong game against a really good team. We should have got a better result and that's on me why we didn't."

Tampa scored three goals in the first off of only eight shots. For the game, the Lightning managed to pierce Holtby four times off of only 19 shots.

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Frustration seemed to boil over on the fourth goal when a normally stoic Holtby was visibly upset after allowing Nikita Kucherov to beat him on a breakaway in a play similar to what we saw in the All-Star Game.

See for yourself:

"The key to getting better is learning from your mistakes and obviously I didn't do that," Holtby said. "I was just trying to play it patient. I wasn't trying to cheat towards that move and he came at it a different way. That's on me for not recognizing it. That's not a goal I can give up in that situation after our team battled the way they did, especially in the third."

The frustration Holtby feels likely is not the result of one goal, but the culmination of a recent slump that continues to plague the Vezina winner.

Holtby has lost four straight starts and has given up at least four goals in each of those games.

While Holtby was quick to take the blame for Tuesday's loss, head coach Barry Trotz was quick to defend his netminder.

"No one takes the loss," he said. "We all take a loss. I take a loss, the group takes a loss and Braden's part of the group. ... He's had a little tough stretch. It's no different than, we've got guys that haven't scored in 15, 20 games. It's no different than a player."

The challenge now is overcoming that slump.

For a slumping skater, Trotz could try different line combinations or play someone in different situations over the course of the game. Getting a starting goalie out of a slump, however, is more difficult. Most of the work has to be done in practice with the hope that it will carry over into the next game.

"You analyze how the goals are going in, what you're doing differently," Holtby said. "There's always some stuff that you can't control and stuff that you can and it's focusing on those contrallables that you can make a difference at. Like the first goal in Chicago, the last two goals here, those are goals that I could and should stop. You get to practice the next day and you focus on that and work hard until you figure it out so you don't do it again."

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Part of the problem in Washington is that team defense is the Caps' biggest weakness. For most of the season, and even in years past, Holtby has made up for much of the team's mistakes on the backend. Now that he is slumping those mistakes become much more glaring and costly.

"The goaltenders in this league are erasers," Trotz said.

Lately, Holtby has not been able to erase those mistakes.

But the team has already moved to address the defense. Brian MacLellan added a puck-moving defenseman in Michal Kempny to help the team get the puck out of the defensive zone more quickly. Waiving Taylor Chorney could also signify another move may be coming before Monday's trade deadline.

As for Trotz, even during the slump, he made clear his confidence in Holtby has not wavered.

"He has been a rock since the day I've been here the last four years and he's been an elite goaltender and I look at him that way."

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2018 Olympic Hockey Results: Czech Republic eliminate U.S. men in shootout winner

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USA Today Sports

2018 Olympic Hockey Results: Czech Republic eliminate U.S. men in shootout winner

GANGNEUNG, South Korea -- Pavel Francouz stopped all five shooters and Petr Kouka scored the shootout winner as the Czech Republic eliminated the United States with a 3-2 victory in the quarterfinals Wednesday.

Jan Kovar and Tomas Kundratek scored in regulation for the Czech Republic, which was fresher after winning its group and getting a bye into the quarterfinals. The U.S. looked fatigued after facing Slovakia in the qualification round and was outshot 29-20.

Ryan Donato and Jim Slater scored for the U.S, which again was led by its youngest players, including speedster Troy Terry. U.S. goaltender Ryan Zapolski allowed three goals on 29 shots and one in the shotoout, while Francouz stopped 18 in regulation and overtime.

Koukal was the only player to score in overtime. Chris Bourque, Ryan Donato, Marc Arcobello, Terry and Bobby Butler couldn't beat Francouz.

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