The playoffs are the time to dig deep. Overtime in the playoffs: a time to dig deeper. On Wednesday night almost every player on the Caps and Rangers benches were asked to give more than they'd ever given in their careers.
Half of the Capitals' playoff games this year have required overtime. Wednesday night's four hour and 34 minute affair tested the mental and physical stamina of every man on the ice. So how does a player push through almost three full periods of unanticipated hockey?
A refusal to give in.
"You don't want to lose because you've fought for so long that losing, you think of it is not an option." said Jay Beagle, who logged over 35 minutes in what was "by far" the longest game of his career.
"Both my quads had seized up and I was straight-legging it," said Beagle. "It was crazy."
Marathon runners train for months in anticipation of their multi-hour, 26.2 mile task. Through their training they learn to push beyond fatigue. They experiment with different methods to refuel in order to find the perfect formula that will push them through hours of grueling physical exhaustion. It's rare that after months of careful training, a marathoner will try something new on race day.
But when asked to essentially play another full game of hockey after 60 high-tempo minutes, Beagle had no fears about trying anything necessary to push on.
"I'm not afraid of that because you basically can't feel worse than you do," Beagle said with a laugh. "It's something where during the game, at the second or third intermission. I don't try anything out of the ordinary because I feel at the top of my game, I feel great. But especially after that second overtime --that was draining. You just try and get stuff into your body --anything into your body is good I think."
But physical discomfort is only part of the problem. Through each of their overtime bouts, numerous Capitals have insisted that the only thing more fun than playoff hockey is overtime playoff hockey. After triple overtime, Beagle disagrees.
"No. No. By that point it's hard," Beagle said laughing. "It's just a grind and your body and mind are tired. You're just trying to think of anything you can do to try and finish this game to try and get the win."
As mental and physical fatigue set it, players struggle to stick to their game plan.
"You can't look too far in the future," said Ward. "You just gotta concentrate cause the minute you slip up, that's when a turnover happens. You just gotta remain mentally strong. Physically I think the guys are on the same page."
"To stay mentally disciplined positionally it gets harder because you're starting to get a little bit weaker and you can't quite get to spots as fast as you could," said Beagle. "But the will is still there to get the win.
Losing in the third overtime --that's one of the worst feelings I've had in a while. It was tough to lose after such a battle and such a fight. It didn't feel good."
What's that thing they say about losing and getting stronger? It seems to have held true for the Capitals so far this season, perhaps that trend continues in Game 4.