Jason Arnott has played in 110 career playoff games, more than some players on the Capitals’ roster have played in the NHL at this point. As Washington prepares for a chance to close out this first-round series on Saturday in Game 5, the veteran center fully understands how important it is to take advantage.
“These are hard. To finish a team off, to put them out, is very hard,” Arnott said. “They’re going to be playing with every emotion and like I said, got to match that or be better than that. With our crowd and everything, we can’t get too overconfident and overanxious. We got to go out and just play relaxed, play our system and just work hard.”
Arnott said that the best thing the Capitals can do is to play a full game with the same intensity and style they possessed during that third-period comeback in Game 4. That was part of the message the players received and tried to impart to each other as their focus shifted from the emotional high of the win two days ago to the work required to wrap up a series.
During that third period on Wednesday at Madison Square Garden, Washington got a lot of help starting the breakout from the defensemen in order to create a strong transition into the offensive zone. Granted, the Capitals were trying to play catchup and thus looked to be aggressive offensively, but it’s something Arnott said they should look to continue.
“We have to think of playing defense, but we also have to think about playing solid offense and creating opportunities and having our ‘D’ join the rush and things like that,” Arnott said. “If we do that much better and play in our own zone better, we should be all right.”
Obviously, Arnott wasn’t a part of last year’s team that let the Montreal Canadiens wriggle off the hook, avoid elimination and eventually go on to win the series. But he said he can appreciate what an efficient playoff series victory would do for the Capitals’ morale and confidence.
“A monkey on your back that you want off,” Arnott said. “They can’t be worried about last year or the year before that. They got to think about this year and the team we have to try and win tomorrow night.”