The Capitals lead the best-of-7 series 2-1 after a 4-3 win in Game 3 at Pittsburgh on Tuesday. But coach Barry Trotz said they haven’t done anything more than regain the home-ice advantage they lost when the Penguins won Game 1 in Washington.
“We have a good understanding that we won a hockey game. We didn’t win a series. We won a hockey game in Pittsburgh,” Trotz said Wednesday. “Other than that, it doesn’t have any more meaning. It’s done with.”
A win in Game 4 would give Washington a chance to close the series at home Saturday. It will play without forward Tom Wilson, who was suspended three games by the NHL Department of Player Safety for an illegal check to the head of Pittsburgh forward Zach Aston-Reese in Game 3.
Capitals center Jay Beagle said they’ve gotten better at focusing on what needs to be done now and not looking too far in the future.
“I really believe this year has felt a little bit different,” he said. “Even in the season when we would get down a couple of goals, we could fight back. It seems that we’re never out of it. We have great guys here, a great group of guys. We’ve just got to, obviously, continue to play a hard road game tomorrow and know that Pittsburgh is going to play its best. We’ve got to make sure we come out and match it.”
The Capitals have won eight of their past nine playoff games on the road, including all four this postseason. They’ve also been good at Pittsburgh, where they are 3-1 in their past four postseason games.
“We’ve had some success there, but it’s tough place to win,” Washington defenseman Matt Niskanen said. “We’re going to have to do it again. We’re going to bring a really good effort to beat them. We’re capable of doing it and we should be excited with the way we played the first two games. We felt we could have won Game 1 (a 3-2 loss) with how we played, we got a couple of breaks in Game 2 which was nice to help us get that win (4-1). But we’re going to have to play better and better as the series goes on.”
Forward Chandler Stephenson said the Capitals have kept things simple on the road, “not trying to impress anybody and be too cute.” Beagle said they are at their best when they keep things simple.
“I think sometimes at home you tend to complicate the game a little bit, try and do a little too much,” he said. “I think on the road, it’s pretty easy just to settle into a road game, knowing that the expectation really isn’t really on the away team as much as the home with the crowd and everything. And that you can just go out and play a more simple game. Sometimes it changes the game a little bit into getting pucks deep and playing a more north-south game. And I think when we do that, that’s when we play our best.”
“I think the biggest thing we’ve learned is the focus on the moment, and the moment is going to be tomorrow and nothing past that,” Trotz said. “Our focus has to be on the next game, and it is. You talk to anyone in our room, they’ll tell you the same thing. We have a real good, acute focus on the next moment ahead of us.”