Caps look to get even in game 2 dump n chase electricity demand


After letting a 2-0 third-period lead slip through their fingers in Game 1 of their second-round Stanley Cup playoff series with the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Caps will try to square the series in Sunday afternoon’s Game 2 at Capital One Arena.

Early in the second round of the 2018 Stanley Cup playoffs, there have been four games in which a team has surrendered a two-goal lead on its way to an eventual setback. The Caps have been responsible for three of those four games; they frittered away two-goal leads in losing the first two games of their first-round series against Columbus, too.

Those early losses in the first round put Washington in a position where it absolutely had to have Game 3 in Columbus. The Caps won that game, but needed nearly half of a second overtime period to prevail and lock down their first win of the series. It was the first of four straight victories to close out the first round, a run that was halted with Thursday’s Game 1 loss to the Penguins.

Washington actually made NHL history with its first-round comeback, becoming the first team in the league’s century of existence to drop the first two games of a best-of-seven set at home and in overtime, and then rally to win the series. The Caps know how strenuous a feat that is, and – facing the Pens for the third time in as many years in the second round – they have to know it would be a tall order to try to repeat that feat against the two-time defending Cup champion Penguins.

“I don’t think you look back at the Columbus series,” says Caps defenseman Brooks Orpik. “We were fortunate to get out against them. Anytime you get to this point of the year, if you go down 0-2 to anybody it’s a real big hole. I think we got a little bit fortunate against Columbus, coming back there. But the first two we lost in overtime, and the first game of this series – it’s so razor-thin that the win and loss margin and the margin for error is [slim]. You’ve got to hope bounces go your way, but you’ve also got to create your own luck by doing things the right way and being very detailed.”

The Caps have fallen down 3-1 in each of their two previous series against the Pens, and they were also down 2-0 to Pittsburgh last spring, after losing the first two games on home ice. Washington was ousted in six games in 2016 and seven games last spring. If the Caps are to turn the tides and find a way to win a playoff series against Pittsburgh for what would be just the second time in 11 tries, a Game 2 victory would seem to be paramount.

Washington scored the game’s first goal just 17 seconds into the first period of Game 1, but was unable to add to that lead despite some glorious chances to do so. Pittsburgh had some excellent chances as well, but the Caps carried that 1-0 lead into third, then doubled it on Alex Ovechkin’s goal just 28 seconds into that period.

Less than three minutes later, the Penguins answered back, times three. The Pens struck for three goals on three consecutive shifts from Sidney Crosby’s line, and the Caps weren’t able to manufacture the equalizer despite having some strong chances, losing 3-2.

“Our focus has to be on the next one, Game 2. It’s a long series, there is going to be a lot of hockey. You’ve got to have a short memory in the playoffs. If you lose one, you’ve got to just be ready to bounce back. We’ll be ready. We’ve got our game plan, we’ve just got to execute and we will be all right.”

The Caps were more culpable for losing the pair of two-goal leads in the first round against Columbus; those leads – and games – were lost because of poorly timed penalties and other Washington mistakes. In Game 1 of this series, Pittsburgh executed a pair of deflections for its first and third goals, and Crosby scored its second goal after Ovechkin got a stick on – but could not disrupt – Jake Guentzel’s cross-ice pass to the Pittsburgh captain.

“I think [against Columbus] we shot ourselves in the foot a little bit with those leads,” says Caps winger T.J. Oshie, “I think last game, it really came down to a couple of plays, one where a funny puck kind of bounces under [Ovechkin’s] stick, and not many pucks get by him.

“I think the [first] one was a good play on [the Penguins’ part], It was a shot to a guy out by the dot, who tipped it all the way back to the far side. Those goals are going to happen; there are a lot of skilled players. The third goal was kind of a funny one. But still, on both the first and the third goal there are little things that we can do to prevent those from happening.”

And although the Caps didn’t play as active a role in the loss of this lead, their focus needs to be sharper throughout the 60 minutes – and more, if need be – against a team that has won two straight championships and nine straight best-of-seven playoff series.

With Game 2 looming on Sunday, both sides will make some adjustments. Both coaches would likely prefer their teams to be a little tighter in the defensive zone, as both teams had a raft of excellent scoring chances in Game 1, and both goaltenders played extremely well.

“We had a few breakdowns that I think cost us,” said Pens coach Mike Sullivan in the aftermath of his team’s Game 1 victory. “You have to give Washington credit; they’re a good team and they’ve got a good transition game and they’ve got some difference-makers on their side as well.

“I think we can learn a lot from this game. We’ll break the film down and we’ll see what we can take away from it. But I’d like to think that if we can cut down on some of the high quality chances, the freebies, the A+ chances that we gave them. And I think that’s within our control. It’s just a little bit better decision-making and making sure that we stay on the right side of people and the right side of the puck, and we manage the puck in the right areas. I think we can become a little bit harder to play against in that regard.”

Washington skated its Game 1 lineup at Saturday’s practice, so no sweater changes seem likely for the Caps – at this point, anyway – for Game 2. Pens center Evgeni Malkin practiced with his teammates on Saturday after missing Game 6 of Pittsburgh’s first round series against Philadelphia, and the first game of this series as well. The Pens are an even more dangerous offensive outfit with Malkin hulking about the ice; he was fourth in the NHL with 42 goals and fourth with 98 points during the regular season.

“I don’t think it does,” says Trotz. “I think they’re deep down the center and we’re deep down the center. You can’t be chasing the match-up all of the time, or your top guys are losing ice time. I feel pretty confident that there are three lines that can play against those match-ups, and [the Penguins] feel very comfortable with those match-ups, too. It’s usually head-to-head, power against power. They’ve got two lines of power, and we have two lines of power.”

“It’s going to be very, very important,” says Oshie, of getting Game 2. “I think we played a good three-quarters of a game in Game 1. But these guys are obviously seasoned. They know what it takes to win and they know what it takes to put series away. So it’s going to be important for us to battle back, get one at home here and try to steal one or two on the road. But any edge we can get over the defending champs, we need to get. And that’s going to be coming away with a win after Game 2.”