Photo: Doug Pensinger
The Washington Capitals played their best game of the postseason in Game Three of the Second Round, firing 49 shots at Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Matt Murray. After allowing three unlucky goals, two off deflections and one off a tip-in in the crease, the Capitals pummeled Pittsburgh with 21 shots on goal in the third period, scoring twice and nearly converting on a myriad of scoring chances in the final minutes. After the Capitals mustered just 10 shots through the first 40 minutes of Game Two, Nicklas Backstrom was angry with how his team played. But speaking after Monday’s loss, which put the Capitals down 2-1 in the series, he was far more confident in his team.
“We had more shots tonight than we had last game, so that’s a good thing,” Backstrom said after Game Three. “It’s a seven game series and I think it’s so important that you take something positive even if you lose. I thought we played right.”
The message was the same throughout the Capitals locker room.
“I thought we played well tonight the whole game,” Alex Ovechkin, who fired an amazing wrist shot past Murray to open the scoring for Washington, said. “Goalie play well on their side, but we set the tone.”
Ovechkin had 18 shot attempts in the game, with 12 coming in Washington’s furious third period. The Capitals managed 36 shots attempts as a team in the final frame. Still, they fell one goal short.
As hockey players, the Caps are familiar with games like this. Hockey is a fast sport played out over 200 feet. When six ounces of frozen rubber gets batted around by 12 players, anything can happen.
“I thought we played well, obviously we got beat by a couple of unlucky bounces,” Braden Holtby said. “If we stick with it, we’ll come out successful.”
The Capitals were outshot 80-59 over the first two games of the series in Washington. In Game One, they had luck on their side. In Game Two, they almost turned a rout into a victory with an excellent third period. That carried over to Game Three.
“We’ve got a good vibe going out of this game,” head coach Barry Trotz said. “We’re looking forward to Game Four. Guys are excited.”
On Tuesday night, the Caps more than doubled the Pens in shots on goal. Shot attempts were even more lopsided, going 85-36 in favor of Washington. Justin Williams, who scored during Washington’s third period rally, acknowledged that, but said the Capitals will not be satisfied until they turn solid play into a win.
“[E]xcuses are for losers and we’re not losers,” Williams said. “We know we played better than we did in Games One and Two, but to win we’re going to have to play better than we did tonight in Game Four. You come here for a split, you’re hoping for a split, and now’s our turn to earn one.”
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