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.
“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.”