Capitals approach Game 6 win or go home needing more consistency

SUNRISE, Fla. — The Capitals don’t have to be careful about what went right in the series for them. They also don’t have to dig much to find out where it went off the rails.

These two styles of play often overlapped, mostly leading to disastrous results, which put the Capitals in a 3-2 series hole heading into Game 6 on Friday at Capital One Arena. If the Capitals don’t win back-to-back games against the President’s Trophy-winning Panthers, they’ll be eliminated in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs for a fourth consecutive season.

Washington lost a 3-0 lead Wednesday in Game 5 and lost a 2-1 lead with less than three minutes left in Game 4 before dropping in overtime.

Now, to salvage their season, the Capitals will need to bounce back better than they have all season.

“We have to win a hockey game,” coach Peter Laviolette said Thursday morning. “There are things we did well in this series and there are things we didn’t do well. Last night was no different. We have to take those things we did well, and positives, and deliver them for a more consistent duration.

The team left South Florida Thursday morning and did not practice. They will have a typical morning practice Friday morning before the puck drop Friday night at 7:30 p.m. In the meantime, they will have to bounce back from not just back-to-back losses, but two mentally deflating losses as well.

There’s another path for the Capitals, one that’s not hard to imagine, one that at worst includes going home with a 3-2 series lead. If they had closed out the games they apparently had in hand, it cannot be ruled out that Game 5 could have been a closing game.

“There should be a lot of confidence from the things we did well in the series, the games we won, the times we played well,” Laviolette said. “But you really have to work for a clean game against a team like Florida who are dynamic with what they do. Again, these will be the points of emphasis going forward. We’ll go on the ice tomorrow and get ready for a big game.

Laviolette isn’t far behind, as the Capitals have played the game they wanted against the Panthers for a good part of the series.

They were the better team in Game 1, won Game 3 at home 6-1, almost stole Game 4 with a stellar performance from Ilya Samsonov in net and led 3-0 in the second period of Game 5 before that the wheels do not fall completely.

The problem is that they almost only stole game 4 and the wheels actually fell off in game 5.

“We just didn’t control the game enough, I think,” Laviolette said. “To get to this point, when we were ahead by three, I thought we were good again and tight defensively, we controlled their rush a bit. I think we were better at owning the puck and staying in the offensive zone and looking for the offense. This is the game we have to play. »

While shot attempts and totals significantly favor the Panthers through five games, the Capitals have dominated special teams and generally held on to high-risk chances even throughout the entire series. In this regard, they did what they wanted.

But if they want to win Game 6, let alone Game 7, they will need 60 more consistent minutes than in the last two games. If they don’t, Friday will be their last game until the fall.

“We have to be careful of things against an overpowered team that has scored a lot of goals this year,” Laviolette said. “So when we’re there, we do a better job inside the game. When we’re not there, that’s when they have their looks and they have their opportunities. We scored 5-on-5 goals, we scored power-play goals, and I think that’s a constant reminder that we always have to think about the defensive side of things.

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