The Washington Capitals are rebuilding their confidence in the aftermath of their latest loss to the New York Islanders.
The Capitals are one loss from elimination heading into Game 4 of the Eastern Conference First Round at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto on Tuesday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVAS, MSG, MSG+, NBCSWA). They’re seeking to become the fifth team to come back from trailing 3-0 and win a best-of-7 Stanley Cup Playoff series (1942 Toronto Maple Leafs, 1975 Islanders, 2010 Philadelphia Flyers, 2014 Los Angeles Kings).
The mood was understandably somber after a 2-1 overtime loss in Game 3 on Sunday in Toronto, the Eastern hub city. The Capitals know they will have to fight their own way out of this predicament and that the Islanders will be looking to extinguish all hope Tuesday. Moving on from the loss Sunday and finding the higher gear they say they know they have but have yet to reach has become their priority.
“I think we played our best game of the series so far, but I still feel like we have more to give,” center Lars Eller said. “But I think we have the ability to overcome it quickly. We had a good night last night being together, the whole team.
“Spent time together, had some good times, had some laughs, and already starting rebounding for the next game.”
Whether the gathering was one of the last fun times for this group before they separate or a reminder of what they’re playing for that propels them to force a Game 5 on Thursday remains to be seen. Teams with a 3-0 lead are 190-4 (97.9 percent) winning a best-of-7 NHL postseason series.
“It’s about creating belief,” Capitals coach Todd Reirden said. “It’s about creating the belief and having the belief as a teammate, having the belief in the guy next to you and as an overall group knowing that everybody is all in knowing they can to help us get that one win and take it day by day and move forward from there. I think that is the key for us is to have that belief that it can be done.”
The belief would be bolstered if first-line center Nicklas Backstrom, who has missed the past two games while in the NHL concussion protocol, will be able to play after skating with Capitals extra players Monday (the rest of the team had the day off). Reirden said he expects to know more after the morning skate Tuesday.
“I have to see how he did today, and we will take it day by day,” Reirden said.
Getting back Backstrom, who scored 54 points (12 goals, 42 assists) in 61 games during the regular season, might help the sputtering offense, which has scored five goals in the first three games against the Islanders, two at 5-on-5. Including three games in the round-robin portion of the Stanley Cup Qualifiers, the Capitals have not scored more than two goals in any of their six postseason games.
The Capitals must either break that trend against the defensively disciplined Islanders or find a way to win 2-1 like New York did Sunday.
“Just get the first game and see where it takes us,” forward Tom Wilson said Sunday. “It’s doable. Obviously, our backs are against the wall, but it starts with one. I expect guys to step up here and persevere through this. We’ve got a little bit of adversity and it’s time to pull together or we’ll be out.”
If the Capitals don’t pull together Tuesday, their season will likely be finished earlier than expected.
“The first thing is, I have to give credit to the Islanders,” Reirden said. “They’ve done a good job and they deserve to be ahead 3-0 in this series. So that is where we are at and now it is all about the next day, the next game and the next play and taking it shift by shift and creating that belief that I started to see a little bit of at the end of Game 3.”