The Capitals are heading to Tampa Bay down two games to none, with back-to-back contests for Game 3 and 4 looming. It isn’t the situation they envisioned for this series, but players said Monday that no one is hoisting up a white flag on the season.
“Can’t be in anything but a positive frame of mind, and we know it’s a huge challenge and a huge task here,” Mike Knuble said. “I think you’ve gotta embrace it, not be upset about what’s happened. You’ve got to push forward and try to be better, so I guess you do want to be a little upset, but not in a negative way — use it to move forward.”
Much has been made of the adversity the Capitals faced in the regular season, from the eight-game skid in December to losing key players to injury. There were also the various games in which they struggled to show any adherence to their system, like against Los Angeles (Feb. 12), Atlanta (Nov. 19) and New Jersey (Nov. 22).
Washington found ways to bounce back from those scenarios and others over the course of the year. Now, with the series shifting to St. Pete Times Forum, perhaps the Capitals will be able to get back to a simple, road-hockey mindset.
“It’s nice that we’re getting away from here and just going to a building where we can try and make a lot of unhappy fans and just go out there and play a solid game and just forget about what’s happened so far,” Karl Alzner said.
Alzner brought up his memories of last year’s AHL playoff run with the Hershey Bears, who found themselves in a similar situation early in a series. In the Calder Cup final against the Texas Stars, the Bears fell behind two games to none, dropping the opening contests at home. But they managed to rally, win the series and secure the championship in six games.
“I know the feeling that -- especially when you’re up two games and then you go home and you’re thinking about sweeping and this and that, and then you lose one game and you know you have to come back to the other team’s building,” Alzner said. “There’s a lot of little things that will be in the backs of their minds.”
After Vincent Lecavalier’s overtime goal sealed the Lightning victory last night, Coach Guy Boucher said his philosophy about the extra session was “not about momentum, it’s about desperation.”
The Capitals shouldn’t have to search much for that feeling of desperation when they face off with the Lightning tomorrow at 6:30 p.m.
“It’s tough to be a one hundred percent positive. But I think we have that [determined] feeling. We’ve showed that we have that fire and that emotion [by] coming back at the end of the game,” John Carlson said. “That’s what it felt like on the bench at that time, that you know that it’s possible, that we’re in these games, that we should give ourselves a better chance to win every game.”