Fantasy Hockey

Capitals need to reset after lost chances against Panthers in playoffs

SUNRISE, Fla. — The Washington Capitals returned home Thursday morning, still absorbing how they came to the brink of elimination against the Florida Panthers in the Eastern Conference first round, but with one goal.

Trailing 3-2 in the best-of-7 series, Washington needs a victory in Game 6 at Capital One Arena on Friday (7:30 p.m. ET; TBS, SN360, TVAS, NBCSWA, BSFL) to stay in life and force Game 7 in Florida on Sunday. The alternative is to lose in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the fourth straight season.

“Well, we have to win a hockey game,” Capitals coach Peter Laviolette said Thursday. “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 the positives, and bring that for a more consistent duration.”

If the Capitals can’t find a way to do that on Friday, they’ll spend the offseason bemoaning the chances they missed to win their first playoff series since the 2018 Stanley Cup Finals against the Vegas Golden Knights. With a chance to take a 3-1 series lead in Game 4 on Monday, Washington led by one before allowing the tying goal with 2:04 left in the third period and losing 3-2 in overtime.

The Capitals took an even bigger punch in a 5-3 Game 5 loss on Wednesday. They were leading 3-0 after TJ Oshie scored his second goal of the game 3:38 into the second period before the Panthers came back with five unanswered goals.

Video: [email protected]: Panthers comeback 3-0 with 5 unanswered

So instead of going home for Game 6 at the top of the series or having already closed it, the Capitals must win back-to-back games against the Panthers, who won the Presidents’ Trophy as the leader of the NHL regular season with a team-high 122 points. .

“Obviously you don’t want to be down 3-2, especially when we feel we had a chance to go 3-1 in the last game,” Oshie said. “You just have to regroup. We have a group of veterans in there, a group of guys with a lot of character.”

If the Capitals will get ahead Thomas Wilson for game 6 is uncertain. Wilson hasn’t played since the first period of Game 1 due to a lower body injury. Laviolette said Thursday that he remains day to day.

Even without Wilson, the Capitals have much of their core intact from their 2018 Stanley Cup squad that previously held that position. Washington trailed the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-2 in the Eastern Conference Finals that season after losing three straight and rebounded to win 3-0 in Game 6 at home and 4-0 in Game 7 on the road to qualifying for the Stanley Cup Finals. .

[RELATED: Complete Panthers vs. Capitals series coverage]

“A lot of these guys have been through here, but we just woke up this morning,” Laviolette said. “Everyone is still feeling last night. I had mentioned it, the day between (games) is the day to kind of get it out of your system, move on and recover. There should be a lot of confidence in the things we did well in the series, the games we won, the times we played well, but you really have to work for a clean game against a team like Florida, which is dynamic in this what she does.

“Again, those are going to be the things we’ll focus on moving forward. We’ll go out on the ice tomorrow and prepare for a big game.”

Among the Capitals’ reasons for optimism is the fact that they controlled play for periods of the series with their forecheck and neutral zone structure, which at times slowed the Panthers’ powerful offense. Washington also holds a 6-0 advantage in power-play goals through the first five games.

But the last two games have been a reminder of what can happen when the Capitals don’t maintain focus for the full 60 minutes. The Panthers have a knack for comebacks, leading the NHL with 29 wins from behind during the regular season, including nine on multiple goals.

“We have to get rid of this one,” Oshie said. “I think we always show ourselves how we have to play and create chances, create attack, keep their attack under control. We keep moving away from that. We have to reset here.”

The Panthers are in position to win their first playoff series since qualifying for the Stanley Cup Finals in 1996 before being swept by the Colorado Avalanche, their third season after joining the NHL as a expansion team in 1993. They lead a playoff series for the first time since 3-2 against the New Jersey Devils in the 2012 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. Florida squandered that opportunity to advance losing games 6 and 7 in overtime.

A decade later, there are no Panthers players left on that team, but this series serves as a reminder that they still have work to do on this one.

“We know we’re in good shape right now, but we can’t really think about the future or anything,” the Panthers captain said. Alexander Barkov mentioned. “Just think about the next shift, the next game, the next period, what you’re going to do and do your best like we did. That’s it. Just prepare for the next game and don’t think too much ahead.”