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."
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."