Laich used the phrase “keep moving forward” over and over again—five times in all—on Tuesday while discussing how he and his teammates need to recover and regroup from a potentially devastating loss to the New York Rangers if the Capitals are going to avoid elimination in Game 6 on Wednesday night.
The top-seeded Rangers lead the series 3-2, one victory from reaching the Eastern Conference finals for the first time since 1997, when a certain guy by the name of Wayne Gretzky was on the team.
“We want to close it out and get this over with. It’s a lot easier said than done,” Rangers forward Brad Richards said. “We want to be as desperate as they are.”
With No. 7-seeded Washington on the verge of taking control of the semifinal series Monday night, Richards tied Game 5 with less than 10 seconds left, and Marc Staal won it about 1 1/2 minutes into overtime.
“You can’t really write that; that’s something you can’t script. You keep moving forward,” Laich said. “Good breaks, bad breaks. We just keep moving forward.”
As much as there might be for the Capitals to lament about how things went awry—two-time NHL MVP Alex Ovechkin had zero shots on goal for only the second time in 49 career NHL playoff games; Washington lost the game’s last seven faceoffs; Joel Ward’s double-minor penalty gave the Rangers power plays at the end of regulation and the start of overtime—they want to do whatever it takes to forget all of it.
“Everyone’s realizing that: Let’s just get it out of our heads now. Let’s just focus on what we need to focus on,” defenseman John Carlson said. “That stuff happens. It’s no one’s fault. There’s no one to blame.”
As it happens, the Capitals have shown a capacity for moving on quickly:
— They’re 3-0 in games following overtime losses this postseason, including taking Game 4 after a three-OT defeat against the Rangers in Game 3.
— They haven’t lost consecutive games since March 22-23.
— Goalie Braden Holtby has played 28 straight NHL games without losing two in a row, a streak that dates to November 2010.
Why is that?
“We control our emotions a little better. I mean, even when we win, we’re not bouncing off the ceiling. It’s more of a business atmosphere. And when we lose, we know we can bounce back,” Laich said. “I mean, we have a very good hockey team. We never get too high, never get too low. We stay pretty composed.”
As for whether New York will be looking ahead at all, Rangers coach John Tortorella said: “We won’t be overconfident. This team doesn’t get overconfident.”
If Washington does manage to win Wednesday, Game 7 would be Saturday in New York.
For the Capitals to extend the series, though, odds are they’ll need to score the opening goal of Game 6. So far in these playoffs, Washington is 6-1 when it scores first, and 0-5 when its opponent does.
“The start is always big. You want to try to get momentum as quick as you can. That’s always the focus,” Rangers forward Brian Boyle said. “I just expect their intensity to ramp up even more. We have to do the same and match it.”
NOTES: Tortorella on Richards, who was the playoffs MVP when their Tampa Bay Lightning won the 2004 Stanley Cup: “I don’t have to say much to him. He knows how to assess his game. He’s a guy that I think mentors people. It’s one of the reasons he wanted to be here. He could see how young a team it was and he wanted to be involved in the mentoring.” … The Capitals met at their practice facility Tuesday for a video session, but only players who aren’t expected to be on the ice in Game 6 skated. … The Rangers held an optional practice at Madison Square Garden before taking the train to Washington. … How does Ovechkin deal with a Rangers defense that became the first to hold him without a shot in the playoffs since Montreal did it on April 15, 2010? “Got to keep trying to get pucks to the net,” Capitals coach Dale Hunter said. … New York and Washington have scored as many as four goals in a game only once each this postseason; both did it in the first round. … 11 of Washington’s 12 playoff games have been decided by one goal.
AP Sports Writer Ira Podell in New York contributed to this report.