Capitals take off-day to regroup for Game 4
The Capitals could have spent their off-day Tuesday in Newark conducting a light practice. Sometimes the best way to shake off a disappointing Stanley Cup playoff loss is to get right back on the ice, and that was the plan.
But Washington coach Adam Oates scrapped it in the aftermath of Monday's 4-3 loss to the New York Rangers in their Eastern Conference first-round series. Instead of fighting traffic to get from the team's Manhattan hotel to Prudential Center -- home of the New Jersey Devils -- Oates choose to give his players the full day off. And with one emotional, physical, stressful game following another, his players appreciated the gesture.
"I'm a little surprised, but rest is a weapon," forward Eric Fehr said. "That's what all the veteran guys always say. We're going to take it easy, we're going to watch some video, we're going to learn from it and we're going to be better next game."
Oates had planned a team dinner and a video session for later in the day at the hotel. Otherwise, his players were on their own as they tried to put the loss to New York behind them. The Caps still lead the series 2-1, after all, with Game 4 set for Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden. With the NBA's New York Knicks hosting a playoff game there on Tuesday, the rink at the Garden was unavailable for a practice. That's the reason Oates initially wanted to go to Newark.
Practice or not, there was still a sense of missed opportunity when Washington managed three goals against Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist and still couldn't come away with a win.
"We should be able to win that game. Goals are hard to come by," forward Troy Brouwer said. "[Lundqvist] was phenomenal again last night, making big saves and timely saves. Guys kept putting pucks on the net, kept getting good shots and he's been there for the task. When we do score three goals, we have to be able to get a win out of it."
Part of the reason they didn't was six penalties taken, which is far too many even against a power play that is struggling as New York's is. The Rangers are 1-for-12 in the series with the man advantage. The Caps have killed 34 of 37 penalties taken since April 13. But New York scored once on the power play on Monday and again just as another one expired.
That left Washington's skilled players stapled to the bench as their teammates killed one penalty after another and later may have sapped the strength of those left to do the heavy lifting while a man down. Defenseman John Carlson led the team in short-handed minutes with 5:38 and was on the ice with defensive partner John Erskine for both third-period goals by the Rangers.
"You want to be disciplined. I think some of the calls are dicey," Oates said. "To be down 6-1 in penalties in a game, when you watch the tape, it wasn't 6-1. Every game, there's small calls in each direction and you feel a little bit slighted on the calls. But obviously discipline is an important thing."