As they try to bury the bitter taste of Friday night’s 2-1 overtime loss in New York , the Capitals are trying to draw on the fact that they still lead their second-round series against the Rangers and are one good game away from moving on to the Eastern Conference Finals.
You have to go back to March 11th and 13th to find the last time the Capitals lost two games in a row and all the way back to late February to find the last time they lost three in a row.
That, combined with the fact they’ve won five straight games at Verizon Center , has them confident about closing out the series in Game 6 Sunday night in Chinatown.
“I don’t think there’s any panic,” Capitals right wing Jason Chimera said after coach Barry Trotz canceled practice on Saturday in favor of a video session. “If you said before the series we’d be up 3-2 with a chance to win it at home you’d take that probably 100 percent of the time.
“It’s a good opportunity again. They play well in their barn. They showed why they’re a world class team, because it’s tough to close them out. But there’s not a sense of worry. You’ve just got to be ready to go.”
Throughout the playoffs, Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby has been the Caps’ backbone, responding to every playoff defeat with a victory the following game. In fact, he has a career record of 10-2 in playoff games that follow playoff losses, including 1-0 shutout of the Rangers in Game 3 in Washington.
“Our goalie doesn’t like to lose,” Chimera said. “He takes it personally and he wants to show everybody it starts with him. We feed off that.”
The Caps have also won five straight playoff games at Verizon Center, where they are hoping their crowd can infuse the energy needed to get off to a better start than they did in Madison Square Garden on Friday night, when they were on their heels for most of the first period and needed a superb effort from Holtby to keep the game scoreless..
“You always hear about home ice being an advantage,” Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik said. “I think the crowd helps you out in terms of energy. Maybe you’re more relaxed because you’ve been there so often. It’s something we’ve talked about all season long, being tough to play at home and hopefully that’s the case.”
Hindsight being 20/20: After reviewing the Curtis Glencross giveaway that led to Ryan McDonagh’s game-winning overtime goal on Friday night, Trotz noticed two mistakes. The first was Glencross’ ill-advised pass intended for Brooks Laich.
The second was Laich’s decision to leave the ice immediately after Jesper Fast intercepted Glencross’ pass, forcing Nicklas Backstrom to join the backcheck after McDonagh had already moved into position to score.
“You just gotta move your feet,” Trotz said of Glencross’ pass. “Glenny can make a better play, he can make a more deliberate play. He can move. Standing still and trying to make a play is not a good idea in the playoffs.
“And we made a bad change. The guy that ended up scoring was [supposed to be defended by] the guy that was standing right in front of our bench [Laich]. That’s not the time to change when you turn the puck over like that.”
History lesson: Yes, fans remember the Capitals being in this position five years ago against the Montreal Canadiens. But Mike Green brought up the Caps were also in this position last week, when they failed to close out the New York Islanders in Uniondale, but delivered a 2-1 knockout punch in Game 7 at home, holding the Isles to just 11 shots.
“We had a chance to close a team out [in Game 6] and we responded with a really good next game,” Green said. “We take pride in that. We’ve done the things we needed to do as far as rest and active warmups. Now it’s just a matter of re-setting the mind and getting ready for tomorrow.
“We’ve responded well in times like this. That’s why it’s a seven-game series. We’re excited for tomorrow’s challenge.”
Quieting Ovi: Thanks to the suffocating play of McDonagh and Dan Girardi, Alex Ovechkin has gone three games without a goal against the Rangers. He has not gone four games without a goal since early December.
“They do a good job,” Trotz said. “They have a couple defensemen that do a good job and a line that’s been watching him closely. You hear coaches say your best players need to be your best players, but you need everybody.”
With the final line change on Sunday, look for Trotz to get Ovechkin out against the Rangers’ third defense pairing of Keith Yandle and Dan Boyle.
“You can’t keep a guy like that down for long,” Chimera said of the Caps’ 29-year-old captain. “They’re going to go in eventually. I have no doubt that he’s going to score a big goal for us tomorrow.”
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