In their past two trips to the Stanley Cup playoffs, the Capitals learned that no lead is worth much of anything until there is a fourth win to clinch a series. It’s that message that the players were all focused on before they traveled to New York for Game 3 against the Rangers on Sunday.

The Capitals have a chance to put themselves firmly in control of this Eastern Conference quarterfinal series this afternoon at Madison Square Garden and it’s an opportunity they know they must seize.

Players all have their individual experiences with the playoffs, but over the course of the franchise’s history, leads in the postseason haven’t been kind to the Capitals. It’s understood that the previous series and lost advantages have no bearing on this year’s club, which is different even from the one in 2009 that last saw a two-games-to-none lead evaporate at the hands of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

But to realize how long it’s been since the Capitals took advantage of that early jump start, and how few times it has occurred, here’s a look at all of the eight series in which Washington has led two-games-to-none prior to this postseason.

Year/Round/Opponent/Series result for Capitals

2008-09 Eastern Conference semifinal vs Pittsburgh, lost in seven.

2002-03 Eastern Conference quarterfinal vs Tampa Bay, lost in six.

1997-98 Eastern Conference semifinal vs Ottawa, won in five.

1995-96 Eastern Conference quarterfinal vs Pittsburgh, lost in six.

1991-92 Patrick Division semifinal vs Pittsburgh, lost in seven.

*1985-86 Patrick Division semifinal vs New York Islanders, won in three.

*1984-85 Patrick Division semifinal vs New York Islanders, lost in five.

*1983-84 Patrick Division semifinal vs Philadelphia, won in three.

*Best-of-five series.