Caps hoping Stadium Series game will help break recent struggles

Nicklas Backstrom

WASHINGTON -- The Capitals' late third-period surge was not enough to overcome the Florida Panthers' three-goal lead, as Washington dropped its third straight home game on Thursday night.

With a rough homestand now in the rearview mirror, the Capitals are now set to travel to Raleigh this weekend to face the Metro-leading Carolina Hurricanes outside at Carter-Finley Stadium as part of the NHL's Stadium Series.

Speaking with reporters following Thursday's game, multiple Capitals players are hoping the Stadium Series matchup -- and everything that comes with the outdoor spectacle -- will help the group refresh and break their recent lull.

"I think it will maybe take our minds off the playoff race and worry about the one game and getting two points," center Dylan Strome said.

"Our whole families are coming to see [us]," defenseman Dmitry Orlov added. "We should bring our A-game and I think we should have confidence and believe in ourselves."

For as exciting or an environment as the Stadium Series matchup should be, Saturday's game versus Carolina is a crucial one for the Eastern Conference playoff race. After falling to Florida on Thursday, the Capitals (62 points) are now tied with the Panthers for the final Wild Card spot in the conference. The New York Islanders lurk behind both teams with 61 points of their own, too.

When asked if having an outdoor game could help the Capitals refocus, head coach Peter Laviolette emphasized that all that matters from the Stadium Series is for his team to earn two points.


"At the end of the day, it's a big game. It's an outdoor game," Laviolette said. "We've got two points that have got to come to our way, they've got to come to our column and that's it. There are things that we can do better and we have to do them better."

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While neither Laviolette nor any of his players directly called Saturday's matchup a 'must-win' game, that approach is certainly being taken from the club.

"They beat us in our own building this week, so we've got to take it to them in kinda their backyard here," Strome said. "It's a big game. Obviously, it's an outdoor game, but it's a huge game for us in the standings. We've got to find a way to get two points. It's kind of do or die this time of year."

Washington and Carolina are plenty familiar with one another; the two teams squared off just two days ago at Capital One Arena. Saturday evening will be the final time the Capitals and Panthers play one another during the regular season, with Carolina currently holding a 2-0 lead on the season series.

Despite coming up on the short end on Tuesday against the Hurricanes, the Capitals feel there are certain things they can take from that game to help leave Raleigh with a win on Saturday. Now, they must bring the effort to help deliver a win.

"We're hoping so," Nicklas Backstrom said. "We're hoping we can turn things around."