NHL playoffs

Washington Capitals seek a different ending

After being upset in seven games by the Montreal Canadiens in the 2010 Eastern Conference quarterfinals, the Washington Capitals were stunned. Here's what the Capitals believe they've learned about succeeding in the playoffs after last year's stinging defeat.

Discover that killer instinct

Coach Bruce Boudreau and the Capitals blew a 3-1 series lead against the Canadiens in the first round last season.

One of the most impressive statistics from the regular season may be Washington's 29-0-3 record when leading after two periods. That said, the Capitals have occasionally struggled to prevent a team from mounting a late comeback — like on Dec. 6 against Toronto, March 13 against Chicago and March 22 against Philadelphia.

It is even more difficult to finish off an opponent in a seven-game series, as the Capitals learned when they squandered a 3-1 lead against the Canadiens (left).

"It's something that you don't like to talk about but winning that final fourth game can be so tough," defenseman Jeff Schultz said. "The team that's down is playing do or die, at their best. Everyone talks about how the level of play jumps up from the regular season — to win that fourth game you have to jump up another level again."

Each of the four playoff series Washington has played under Coach Bruce Boudreau has gone seven games. Washington has held two-game leads in two of them — Montreal and in 2009 against Pittsburgh. The Capitals lost both.

The ability to wrap up a series early can lead to a longer run for the Stanley Cup. The extra days of rest help.

By Katie Carrera - The Washington Post. Published April 13, 2011.