PITTSBURGH—If the Capitals are going to rally from a three-games-to-one deficit in their second round series against the Penguins, the team’s best players are going to need to be much better.
Alex Ovechkin knows it. And his coach knows it, too.
“It’s more right now that we have to find an extra way to get an extra goal,” Barry Trotz said after Wednesday’s 3-2 defeat at PPG Paints Arena. “We got to get an extra save. And our top guys, I thought, weren’t as good as they needed to be.”
Trotz didn’t name names. But he didn’t have to; the box score did it for him:
Ovechkin had as many shots on goal—two—as he did minor penalties.
Nicklas Backstrom did not record a shot on goal in 20:41.
Braden Holtby finished with a sub-.900 save percentage (three goals on 18 shots) for the third time in four games vs. the Pens.
The power play went 0-for-4, mustering five shots on Marc-Andre Fleury in 6:41. (Ovechkin negated a power play early in the third with an offensive slashing penalty.)
Sure, it didn’t help that the third and fourth lines didn’t chip in offensively, either. Or that the Caps’ blue line put forth its shakiest collective performance of the postseason on a night when they didn’t have Sidney Crosby to worry about.
But it was the top players’ forgettable effort that underscored the disappointing result—and Trotz took aim with his unusually pointed postgame remarks.
“They had an opportunity to play well [and] I didn’t think our top guys really stepped up…which was very unfortunate for us,” Trotz said.
Asked about Ovechkin, Trotz declined to be specific.
“I would say our top players didn’t play as well as they need to be,” Trotz reiterated. “They need to be top players, and step up right now.”
Ovechkin, meantime, owned his lackluster effort, saying he didn’t play his game.
“Me personally,” he said, “I have to play much better.”
Ovechkin has one goal in four games against the Penguins. Overall this postseason, he’s tied for fifth in goals with four (in 10 games) and 15th in points with seven.
“Obviously it’s frustrating,” Ovechkin continued. “But we still have games left. The character on this team has been outstanding. I’m pretty sure we understand right now it’s Game 7 every game for us. We’re ready for that.”
Well, they had better be ready. The team will take Thursday off and return to the ice for practice Friday in Arlington, Va.
Game 5 is Saturday night, and the Caps’ margin for error is gone.
“One of the things in playoff hockey is you have to earn the right to play,” Trotz said. “It’s not a given. As I said, the Pittsburgh Penguins have played without a number of players all year and you were going to get their best game. And you needed our best game to beat them. And we knew that. They stepped up.”