It all comes down to this. Tonight we will find out if this Caps team is different, like they said they are all season long, or “same team, different year.” Down 2-1 in the series and facing some adversity, the Caps will have to do it before a hostile crowd in Pittsburgh against a confident Penguins team that has played their best hockey over the last two months.
The Capitals did play their best hockey in Game 3 after a lackluster performance on home ice in Game 2. The Caps outshot the Pens 49-23 in Game 3 but couldn’t get a puck past Pittsburgh goaltender Matt Murray for the first 48 minutes. Down in a 3-0 hole, Alex Ovechkin broke through for his first goal of the series at 8:02 in the third period.
The Caps kept pressing for the final 10 minutes with plenty of bodies in front of the net and a lot of great looks but couldn’t get anything past Murray, who was playing out of his mind. The Caps finally broke through in the last-minute to make it a one goal game as Justin Williams notched his first goal of the playoffs.
After Game 2, Brooks Orpik was suspended three games for a controversial hit on Pens defenseman Olli Maatta. Maatta left the game. The storyline entering tonight’s game is Kris Letang’s one game suspension for his hit on Marcus Johansson during the first period Monday night. Johansson came back into the game in the second period but after the game said his neck was in pain. He did not practice yesterday and according to the Caps is day-to-day with an upper body injury. He will be re-evaluated this morning before Washington takes the ice for their morning skate.
Despite the loss on Monday, the Caps were confident in the locker room. Caps Head Coach Barry Trotz told the media after Tuesday’s practice, “Our game was much better and much more of the game we envisioned, the kind of game that we play when we’re at our best. There’s still some areas that I think we could get better at.”
Trotz then compared their current series to last year’s first round matchup with the Islanders. “We lost Game 3 last year against the Islanders and sort of started to build our game. We were down 2-1 in that series just as we are here. Hopefully there’s some good memories of that we can carry forward.”
The Caps hope to create new memories and begin the first step in erasing painful second round memories of years past. Washington has been starving for a championship for a long time and would like nothing more than to beat a team that has bullied them in the postseason for the longest time. Puck drop is at 8 p.m. and you can catch the game on NBCSN.
By Michael Marzzacco