So on Saturday afternoon, Wilson sauntered out at the team’s practice facility in Arlington, joining a handful of teammates for an optional skate, none of them knowing whether it would be their final off-day workout of the season.
“Your experience tells you today is a new day, tomorrow is another new day after that. I think we know [Game 4] wasn’t good enough,” Wilson said. “It was one bad game, and we have to move forward.”
The Capitals find themselves on the brink of another first-round playoff exit, which would be their third in as many years after they claimed their first Stanley Cup title in 2018. To keep its season alive, Washington will need a drastic turnaround from Friday night’s lifeless showing, when they produced just 20 shots, went 1 for 7 on the power play and were a step behind the speedy Bruins from the outset in a 4-1 loss.
Game 5 is Sunday night at Capital One Arena.
“I just think we didn’t really bring it,” center Lars Eller said. “I want to see a different team in Game 5 at home. I believe we can do that. I’ve seen it before.”
After three tight games to start the series — the teams traded overtime wins in Game 1 and Game 2, then Boston outlasted the Capitals for a 3-2 win in double overtime of Game 3 — Washington, which has one of the NHL’s oldest rosters and several players working through injuries, appeared to run out of gas in Game 4.
“The execution I think was way off last night,” Capitals Coach Peter Laviolette said Saturday. “But we’ve got to move past it regardless. There is no room for the weak in playoffs. You’ve got to respond to everything.”
Laviolette, who was the coach of the Philadelphia Flyers when they rallied from a 3-0 deficit to beat Boston in the 2010 playoffs, said Washington would deploy a “short-term plan” to climb back into the series. That probably won’t include any major lineup changes to get fresh legs on the ice, but Laviolette kept any potential decisions close to the vest Saturday — including in net, where Ilya Samsonov has started the past two games. Rookie Vitek Vanecek remains day-to-day after suffering a lower-body injury in Game 1; 40-year-old Craig Anderson, who started Game 2, was Samsonov’s backup Friday night. Samsonov, who made 33 saves in Game 4, has never started three consecutive games in his two-year NHL career.
“There’s not a lot of moves that could be made. … There might be one or two,” Laviolette said of his lineup. “As we attack the day … you continue to look at the game [Friday] night, five-on-five, you continue to talk about the specialty teams, you talk about the lineup and go from there.”
Washington also dealt with discipline from the league Saturday: Forward Anthony Mantha was fined $5,000, the maximum allowable under the collective bargaining agreement, for goaltender interference on Boston’s Tuukka Rask in Game 4. Mantha drove toward the net and ran into Rask in the third period. Mantha was assessed a minor penalty, and Rask stayed in the game. The 26-year-old winger has two assists in four postseason games.
Defenseman Dmitry Orlov was not given any supplemental discipline for his high hit on the Bruins’ Kevan Miller in the second period. Orlov appeared to make accidental — and not direct — head-to-head contact with Miller on the play. Miller then fell and hit his head on the ice.
Orlov was originally given a major penalty, but it was changed to a double minor for roughing after a review. Miller was taken to the hospital and underwent testing. He returned home Saturday morning, Boston Coach Bruce Cassidy said.
Wilson said the Capitals would spend the lead-up to Game 5 watching video and digesting Friday night’s mistakes, with the focus on generating more offense at five-on-five and on the power play.
“We got to do better. Those are big moments, and we have to find a way to capitalize,” Wilson said. “Every game in the playoffs has a lot of weight. You win a game, and you’re right back in it. We’re focused on winning one game. We’re not looking too big picture right now.”