As previously mentioned, the comeback the Capitals must complete in order to extend their season is a tall order. Only three teams in NHL history have ever come back to win after trailing a playoff series three games to none. The way to look at the challenge, Coach Bruce Boudreau said, is to go by the old “one game at a time” cliché.
“You don’t think of it as four, think of it as one,” Boudreau said. “Four seems like a daunting task. One doesn’t seem as daunting. If you get success with it, you just look at one more -- it’s the only approach.”
These games have all been close, one-goal differentials for the most part (excluding Tampa Bay’s two-goal edge on an empty-net tally in Game 1) and while perhaps a bounce here or there makes this a different series, the Capitals need to put in the work to get those breaks.
“We have to play better. We know that,” Scott Hannan said. “When the game is on the line, we have to play with confidence and not hold our sticks too tight. We’ve got to do that tonight because there is no tomorrow.”
Where the Capitals had excelled in tight games down the stretch in the regular season and again in the first round against the Rangers, that hasn’t translated into well-rounded, complete games against the Lightning. And in order to extend this series they will need to reestablish that poise when the stakes are the highest.
“It is just playing under that pressure and making the right plays,” Hannan said. “We’ve been so close in these games and we’re not playing our best hockey. I think that’s the key for us -- we’ve got to come out and play the way we can for the full 60 for the next four games. Leave it all out there -- there is nothing left. You know -- nothing else to do in Tampa tonight.”
Washington hadn’t lost this season when entering the third period with a lead until the 4-3 Game 3 loss on Tuesday. The Capitals had outscored opponents 80-58 in the third period in the regular season but are only 7-8 in goals for and against this postseason. In the third period against the Lightning, they’ve been outshot 15 to 30 and haven’t taken more than five in any third period of this series. Tampa Bay has also outscored the Capitals 4-1 in the third.
“It seems to be a point of contention with us right now,” Coach Bruce Boudreau said. “Usually the third periods you lok at the year and the years gone by the third is our best period. We got outworked in the third period. It’s something that’s a problem and we have to change it.”