(Jonathan Newton/WASHINGTON POST)

While few pundits picked the Capitals to win their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series, Washington’s confidence to hang with the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins has been on display through Games 1 and 2.

“I don’t know why anyone thought we wouldn’t be able to,” Troy Brouwer said earlier in the series. “We played so well against them in the regular season. Every team’s got another gear in the playoffs.”

As they head into Game 3 tonight at Verizon Center with the series tied 1-1, the Capitals return to the place where they’ve been their most consistent in an unpredictable year. Home ice was one of the few reliable assets Washington had throughout the regular season – 26-11-4 -- and it needs it needs to excel here once again.

“We’re a team to be reckoned with on our ice and have our fans cheering pretty loud,” Karl Alzner said. “It gives us that much more emotion. It’s going to be very important to start well and play well for 60 [minutes].”

Both teams will be looking to seize control and perhaps shift the balance in this tight series where every inch and every detail matters and the margin of victory is slim. There is a card the Bruins could chose to play as it enters hostile territory tonight, though, and that is to rough up the series a bit more. So far there’s been a growing level of animosity, but it’s been limited to occasional scrums after whistles (or a blocker to the face of an opposing player).

As the Capitals look to stay the course and continue to adhere to the defensive strategies that brought success in the first two games, Boston intends on improving. On Sunday, Bruins’ coach Claude Julien singled out his team’s ability to work harder.

“I think there’s no doubt, I think our battle can be better,” Julien said. “Right now when you look at this series, I think both teams are pretty even, you know, determination – that’s why it’s tied at 1-1 and that’s why both games have gone into overtime. Somewhere along the way you’ve got to find a way to get a little bit more of that edge than the other team and they’re probably hoping to do the same thing.”

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