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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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Despite late penalty, Todd Reirden doesn’t want to see Nathan Walker change his game

Despite late penalty, Todd Reirden doesn’t want to see Nathan Walker change his game

The Caps looked like they were in good shape in the third period on Wednesday. With a 3-2 lead in the final frame against a New York Rangers team that had played the night before, Washington looked like they were starting to wear down the blue shirts and tilt the ice in their favor.

But everything changed just before the midway point of the period.

Nathan Walker, in the lineup for the first time since Oct. 4, chased down Neal Pionk behind the Rangers net as Pionk went to collect the puck. Walker put his arms around the Rangers’ defenseman to slow him up and he was called for holding.

“That was the safest thing possible for me to do is to wrap him up and take him in the corner like that,” Walker said to NBC Sports Washington on Friday. “Personally, I didn't think it was a good call on the ref's side, but that's the way it goes.”

Just over a minute later, Chris Kreider deflected a shot that was going wide past Braden Holtby for the power play goal to tie the game at 3.

A third period mistake that tied the game from a player in and out of the lineup could have been a devastating moment for Walker, but head coach Todd Reirden was adamant after the game that he did not want Walker to lose his aggressiveness or change the way he plays as a result of Wednesday’s mistake.

“I insert him to be aggressive and his intensity was something we needed,” Reirden said. “I thought he won a lot of puck battles earlier in the game and at different points. He's pursuing the puck trying to force a turnover and it ends up as a call against. That's I think a tough call in that situation, but we're able to pick him up and if there's a guy on our team that we want to rally around and try to come back for, it's someone like that with a work ethic and just commitment and dedication and how he is as a teammate.”

Luckily for Walker, the Caps were still able to get the win thanks to Matt Niskanen’s overtime goal. Those were nervous moments for him watching as the team tried to overcome his mistake.

“It's definitely nerve-wracking for sure,” Walker said. “You kind of feel like you're the reason why they got back into the game. I personally thought we were all over them in the third period up until they got that goal. I think we still played really well, but obviously the play with the lead is a lot nicer than playing tied up 10 minutes to go in the third. It was nerve-wracking, but it was good that the guys came through and we got the two points at the end of the day so that's the main thing.”

The fact that Walker’s mistake did not end up costing the team will make it easier for Reirden’s message to sink in. It’s his aggressiveness that makes him valuable. One mistake should not make him change that aspect of his game.

Said Reirden, “It's something that if he stops hunting pucks and creating havoc up ice then he's just a very average player that's going to find himself in and out of the league.”

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Capitals vs. Panthers: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream, How to Watch

Capitals vs. Panthers: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream, How to Watch

The Washington Capitals (3-2-1, 7pts) are coming off of an overtime thriller at home over the Rangers thanks to Matt Niskanen's crafty timing.

Through the first six games of the season, Washington is undefeated on Wednesdays, yet has failed to win consecutive games. The Caps hope to change that trend Friday night at home vs. the Florida Panthers (0-2-2, 2pts).

The Panthers have yet to win a game this season, with each of the four games being decided by just one goal. The Panthers have no problem scoring, netting at least five goals in two of the first four games, but have failed to seal the deal. This is where the defending Stanley Cup champions will need to capitalize.

Only the Maple Leafs (33) and Hurricanes (33) have scored more times than the Capitals (24). Washington has a clear advantage in firepower. The biggest key to victory is keeping the space in front of Braden Holtby clean as a whistle. If the Caps control their goalmouth, they should have no issues dispatching the Panthers.

Here is everything you need to know about the Friday night game, which takes place at 7:00 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Washington. 

CAPITALS-PANTHERS GAME: HOW TO WATCH

What: Washington Capitals vs. Florida Panthers

Where: Capital One Arena, Washington, D.C.

When: Friday, October 19, 7:00 p.m. ET

TV Channel: Capitals-Panthers will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

Live Stream: Watch Capitals vs. Panthers on the NBC Sports Washington live stream page and the NBC Sports MyTeams App.

Radio: Caps Radio 24/7, 106.7 The Fan FM

CAPITALS-PANTHERS TV SCHEDULE:

6:00 PM: Caps FaceOff Live
6:30 PM: Caps Pregame Live
7:00 PM: NHL: Florida Panthers at Capitals 
9:30 PM: Caps Postgame Live
10:00 PM: Caps Overtime Live

CAPITALS vs. PANTHERS INJURY REPORT:

Capitals: Travis Boyd (OUT, IR), Tom Wilson (OUT, Suspension)

Panthers: Michael Haley (OUT, Leave of Absence), Roberto Luongo (OUT, MCL injury), Mike Matheson (OUT, Suspension) 

CAPITALS vs. PANTHERS PLAYERS TO WATCH:

Evgenii Dadonov, W, Panthers: Dadonov is leading the Panthers this season with two goals and two assists on the season.

John Carlson, D, Capitals: Carlson had a heck of a game vs. the Rangers Wednesday night with a goal and two assists. The Capitals worked on faceoffs in practice leading up to Wednesday night's game and all of the hard work paid off with Carlson's goal coming right off the faceoff from Backstrom. 

CAPITALS vs. PANTHERS SERIES HISTORY

Number of all-time Meetings: 123

All-Time Series Record: 64-50-9

Playoff Record: N/A

Last Meeting: Panthers beat Capitals 3-2 (2/22/2018)

Last 10 Meetings: Tied 5-5 

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