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Caps try to stay positive after Game 6 loss

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Caps try to stay positive after Game 6 loss

It was a valiant effort, but after going down by three early in the third, the Caps fell to the New York Rangers 4-3 and will head back to Madison Square Garden for a winner-take-all Game 7.

"It’s the best team in the league so I don’t think anybody’s shocked," Brooks Orpik said. "It took us the third period in Game 7 to beat the Islanders. All due respect to them this is a better team than the Islanders."

"Yeah, we lose the game, but life is not over, right?" Evgeny Kuznetsov said. "You have to stay positive and find a way how you beat these guys. This is a good team." 

The Rangers set the tone early as Chris Kreider scored twice in the first period, one 40 seconds into the game and the other with just 0.3 remaining to put the Rangers up 2-0.

After a few shaky goals, Braden Holtby recovered to keep the Caps close, turning away 24 of the Rangers' 28 shots on goal. After the game, it was clear the team felt the responsibility for those goals fell on them and their effort and not on their star netminder.

"He was great as usual," Marcus Johansson said. "He can’t save everything. We have to help him out a little bit."

RELATED: Furious rally falls short as Caps lose 4-3 to Rangers in Game 6

This game now marks the fourth-straight in which Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Green were all held without a point.

"We knew we’d have to step up, we knew we have to play better," Ovechkin said.

It was that offensive futility that led to Trotz shaking up the lines mid-game. After so many games with the same offensive line combinations, the Caps could have panicked or collapsed, but the team seemed to respond.

"Sometimes the coach has to do that to get a spark or make something happen and it worked later in the third period," Johansson said. Though the game felt over after Rick Nash put New York up 4-1 in the final frame, the Caps mounted a comeback with two goals to pull within one with just under 10 minutes remaining.

Erasing a three-goal deficit against Henrik Lundqvist, however, is a tall task and the Caps ultimately fell short. Still, the resolve the team showed by mounting a comeback is a positive the team hopes to cling to as they prepare for Game 7.

"The character of this group, it shows a lot," Ovechkin said. "We’re going to come back and win the series."

Despite losing two-straight and now facing a Game 7 back in New York, there is no panic within the locker room as most players said they felt "excited" by the prospect of Wednesday's winner-take-all clash.

Said Kuznetsov, "We have the same chance like their guys, 50/50."

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Key Caps questions: Will the Caps suffer a Stanley Cup hangover?

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USA TODAY Sports

Key Caps questions: Will the Caps suffer a Stanley Cup hangover?

The dog days of summer are officially here, but it's never too hot to talk some hockey.

Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir and Capitals correspondent JJ Regan are here to help you through the offseason doldrums. They will discuss key questions facing the Caps for the upcoming season as Washington prepares to defend its title for the first time in franchise history.

Today's question: Will the Caps suffer a Stanley Cup hangover?

Tarik: The term ‘Stanley Cup Hangover’ exists because, well, it’s a real thing. And the Caps, like all teams that battle into early June, are vulnerable to suffering from it next season.

Why? Think about it. No. 1, the core group just completed the longest season—106 games—of their lives (and, somewhere, the party is still going). No. 2, the top guys aren't exactly a bunch of spring chickens. No. 3, human nature.

A little more on that last one. Alex Ovechkin and Co. have spent the entirety of their professional hockey careers chasing Lord Stanley’s Cup. And now they have it. At long last. Hoisting the Cup was as much a moment to cherish as it was a gigantic relief for a team that had been labeled perennial underachievers. Shifting gears from that feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment back to hunger and determination is difficult.

Something else that worries me a bit? They don’t have experience dealing with a truncated offseason. Rest and recovery matter. And they aren’t going to get much of either this summer.

All that said, they don’t have to stumble through the 2018-19 season. If you're looking at things from the optimist's point of view, the Cup run did something for Ovechkin and his teammates that none of the previous failures could: It showed them EXACTLY what it takes to play deep into the spring.

Eleven out of 12 forwards from the championship squad are expected back. Five of six defensemen and the goalie are returning, as well. Sure, they’ve got a new head coach, but he’s been here for four years already, giving him a huge advantage over a bench boss who’s starting from scratch. So there’s continuity and chemistry already built in.

I look at it like this: The core guys who’ve been around a while—Ovechkin, Backstrom, Carlson, Holtby, etc.—have a rare opportunity before them. After coming up short for so many years, they’ve been gifted an extraordinary chance to make up for lost time over the next 12-24 months. In fact, Ovechkin, Kuznetsov, Backstrom, Oshie, Eller, Carlson, Niskanen, Orlov, Kempny and Holtby have two more years together, as a core, before the next round of tough decisions will need to be made.

But it’s going to be up to them. Are they going to be satisfied with one Cup? Or will they get greedy? I’m betting on the latter.

Regan: The Capitals could enter next season hungry, motivated, in the right mindset, completely prepared in every way to avoid a Cup hangover and it may still happen. Why? Because the Capitals (and Vegas for that matter) will enter next season with less time to rest, recover and prepare after a grueling playoff run than any other team in the NHL.

First things first, no, I do not think the Caps will struggle because they are are partying too hard this summer and won't be ready for the start of the season.

It took a long time Washington to finally reach the top of the mountain. It won't be lost on Alex Ovechkin, or any of the veterans, that the year he came into training camp early and in really good shape, that was the year he was able to lead his team to the promised land. Considering all the struggles, all the early playoff exits, all the years it took to finally win, I expect the veterans will look at how they prepared last season and take that lesson to heart going into camp. Those players will enter the fall in as good a shape as the time they have this offseason will allow them to be.

But this team is not just composed of veterans of the Ovechkin era who suffered through all of those postseason struggles.

What about the youngsters? Will Jakub Vrana have the same motivation as Ovechkin or a Nicklas Backstrom to show up to camp ready next season? What about Chandler Stephenson, Christian Djoos and Madison Bowey? If any of the team's young players aren't exactly in "game shape" by the fall, they won't be the first and they certainly won't be the last to struggle with early career playoff success.

There's also a new head coach to consider. In a lot of ways, I think coming into the season with a new coach in Todd Reirden will help. I don't expect too much adjustment under a coach the team knows very well, but I do expect more motivation at the start of the regular season than you usually see from a team coming off a championship.

There are a lot of reasons why the Caps could actually avoid a Cup hangover, but the fact is that time puts them at a disadvantage. Even if they overcome all the other factors, there's nothing they can do to suddenly give themselves more time to recover and to train. For that reason alone, I do expect a few early-season struggles from the defending champs.

Other key questions

How will the Caps look different under Todd Reirden?

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Capitals' T.J. Oshie had so much fun golfing, drinking through shirt again at celebrity golf tournament

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Capitals' T.J. Oshie had so much fun golfing, drinking through shirt again at celebrity golf tournament

Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo may have won the American Century Championships celebrity golf tournament this weekend, but T.J. Oshie definitely had the most fun.

Using the Modified Stableford scoring format for the tournament — which included several pro and retired athletes, such as Steph Curry, Aaron Rodgers, Larry Fitzgerald, Carson Palmer, Charles Barkley and Joe Pavelski — Oshie finished with 11 points, tying for 48th with NFL Hall of Famer Tim Brown and Golf Channel host Lisa Cornwell. 

But the Capitals' winger's score didn't really matter because Oshie was out on the Lake Tahoe golf course in Nevada just having fun with his family and continuing the epic celebration as a new Stanley Cup champion. Obviously, that meant playing and chugging a beer through his t-shirt as 'We Are The Champions' played.

His brother, Taylor, was his caddy, and at one point, Oshie borrowed his brother's beer helmet while putting. He sunk it, and it was amazing.

Yeah, Oshie had a great weekend. Here's a look at some other moments from his weekend on Lake Tahoe.

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