Evgeny Kuznetsov scored just 17 seconds into the game and 28 seconds into the third period, Alex Ovechkin added another. All of a sudden, the Washington Capitals were up 2-0 on their arch nemesis: the Pittsburgh Penguins. Then the Penguins struck for three unanswered goals, silencing the crowd that was buzzing over the first 42 minutes of the game.
Trotz was first asked about the way they should play when they trail, compared to when they have a 2-0 lead.
“We want to play the same way we’ve played when we had the lead,” said Trotz. “We want to play fast, make sure we have those numbers back, make good decisions and defend hard.”
The Capitals may have had a two-goal lead in the third but there was a possibility that they could’ve had a five-goal lead on the Penguins. The Capitals had some good chances to put the game away in the first period, including a pass from Dmitry Orlov to Alex Ovechkin for a clear one-timer that blasted wide past the net. Alex Chiasson also had a clean look on an open net but was stopped by Penguins goalie Matt Murray.
“I thought we made them pretty uncomfortable. We had some pretty good looks and we had them in some vulnerable situations. We just didn’t get the puck by them. We missed the net a couple of times and we also made some good saves as well. We’ve got to continue to make it harder for them,” Trotz said. “We had a lot of chances but the only thing that really matters is the scoreboard. They were able to get three and we were only able to get two.”
Those missed opportunities in the first period came back to bite the Capitals in the third period. The Penguins are a team that has won nine playoff series in a row and back-to-back Stanley Cups. They’ve proven they can battle when faced with adversity. Their adversity heading into Game 1 was beginning the series without Evgeni Malkin and Carl Hagelin. Trailing 2-0, they took advantage of that small deficit with goals from Patric Hornqvist, Sidney Crosby, and Jake Guentzel.
“In the playoffs, around the league, you’re obviously going to get a push from the other team because of desperation. The key is to not be on your heels,” Trotz said. “I think every situation is a little bit different, but you’ve got to make sure you stay on top of the other team. I thought last night we had a number of chances to pull away and we just weren’t able to pull away.”
A lot of fans have started to panic already. Seemingly emerging out of the woodwork, the “here we go again” crowd that was present when the Capitals were down 2-0 in the previous series, have surfaced once again.
We’ve all seen how this team has battled in the face of adversity from adjusting to a new team with key pieces gone, injury adversity and more recently, coming back from an 0-2 first round series deficit against the Blue Jackets. Trotz expressed confidence that his team can overcome adversity again in their biggest challenge to date, dethroning a team that has given them trouble for decades.
“We had a couple of kicks in the stomach in the first round with Columbus and you saw the response that we had. I know our group. I know the strength of our group. I know its resiliency. This group will battle back,” said Trotz.
The Caps will continue their series against the Penguins on Sunday afternoon in Game 2. Puck drop is at 3 p.m.
“We’ll be ready next game. It’s a race to four. How you get there, it has a different journey. Last series it was a completely different journey than some of the other series that we had. We’re just going to focus on the next game, get a win and go from there,” said Trotz.
By Michael Marzzacco