The Capitals skated off the ice Saturday after a decisive response to their flat performance in the back half of Game 2 of the best-of-seven Stanley Cup playoff series on Thursday against the Florida Panthers
The 6-1 victory on Saturday gave Washington control once again of the series and its reward is a chance to take a commanding 3-1 series lead on Monday in Game 4.
The Panthers, meanwhile, are trying to avoid a disastrous hole as the No. 1 seed after being called out by their coach, Andrew Brunette, for being out-worked in the series so far.
“We all know playoffs have their swings and momentums,” Capitals forward T.J. Oshie said postgame Saturday. “A team wins one game, the other team is going to make some adjustments and come at you twice as hard the next game. They did that in Game 2 and it was our turn to respond in Game 3 and I think the boys did a really good job from the drop of the puck all the way through.”
The Capitals’ 6-1 win, paired with a 4-2 win in Game 1, has them feeling good about their chances in the series with just two wins needed from a possible four games. The Panthers now need to win the next three games -- or three of the next four. Games 5 and 7 will be played in Sunrise, Fla. Games 4 and 6 are at Capital One Arena.
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There’s pressure mounting on the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Panthers, who are in danger of continuing their playoff losing streak to seven. They have not won any series since 1996 when they lost in the Stanley Cup Final to the Colorado Avalanche. In its history, Florida has won just three series.
“I can’t speak to how they’re feeling right now. I do know when we had - it might have been 2017 maybe? When we were way out in front. I’m not sure which one of my first two years it was there,” Oshie said. “I do know when we stepped into playoff hockey after getting so far ahead, us at that time slowed down a little bit before playoffs. And then we ran into Pittsburgh, and they were playing pretty good hockey."
Still, the Capitals have seen how quickly the Panthers and their regular season league-leading offense can turn the tide.
Washington had a strong first period in Game 2, but Florida scored twice in less than two minutes to take a two-goal lead into the first intermission. They added three more in the second period to put the game out of reach for good.
Now, it’s up to the Capitals to weather the storm from the Panthers in Game 4.
"So, this game — if we don't follow it up, then that's on us,” Washington coach Peter Laviolette said Saturday. “It's got to be pointed from right now. We've got to make sure that our mindset is knowing exactly where they're at. Our preparation, our work, our detail. That has to be the priority. The third period, it wasn't who we were, but I think it's really important that we understand, we know exactly where they are at and we're ready to play."
The veteran Capitals certainly have the experience edge in the series. They’ll look to take advantage of it on Monday in Game 4.
“You draw from being on both sides of situations all the time,” defenseman John Carlson said. “We didn’t necessarily love how we played in Game 2 and certainly didn’t like the result. Now we’ve got another chance to build on what we had from last night. We’re at home and we’ve got to make the most of it.”
All first-round games of Capitals vs. Panthers will be available regionally on NBC Sports Washington and streamed live on the MyTeams app.