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HOCKEY

One loss won't throw Capitals into a panic

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Given the extra day off and both recent and past history for the Washington Capitals, there were plenty of questions about what went wrong in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series against the New York Rangers.

The answer is not that much, and the Capitals will still be in control of this best-of-7 series by winning at least one of the next two games.

"We're fine. We have a lot of confidence in here," Jason Chimera said after an optional practice at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. "It was a bad loss, but you have to move on. You have to forget about it quickly in the playoffs -- more so than in the regular season. We're still in good shape so guys just have to keep it going."

Added Matt Bradley: "I don't think anyone thought we were going to sweep every series. We're going to lose games in the playoffs, and I think for us it is just a matter of getting back to that work ethic and good defensive play we had the first two games and we'll be fine. We're not going to dwell on the last game. They played really well and they deserved to win. It is up to us now to turn the tide."

The Rangers needed a fortuitous bounce on the game-winner and an incredible shot from a tight angle to score two of their three goals on Washington goaltender Michal Neuvirth. The Capitals also took eight minor penalties and had to kill off seven New York power plays (going 6-for-7 but exerting a lot of energy to do so).

While the natural reaction is to look for things to fix, there might not be much in that department. Taking fewer penalties will obviously be a point of focus, and taking more shots instead of looking for passes on the rush would probably also fall in that category.

The biggest key of all for the Capitals is to not let a couple of unlucky bounces -- off Karl Alzner's shoulder and Alex Ovechkin's stick -- erase the mindset of still being in control of the series.

"They were a desperate hockey team and we didn't match their work ethic and their enthusiasm," Bradley said. "There is really no excuse for it, but it was only one game and it is not like we played a bad game. We just didn't do what we needed to. I think we'll be ready for Wednesday."

Added coach Bruce Boudreau: "It is two teams going at each other tooth and nail. In these situations it not necessarily what you did wrong that cost you. It is a lucky break, but I think both teams are working really hard. Whoever stays the most disciplined and does the right things is going to be successful."

Washington's history in this situation is not great. The Capitals had a two-game lead in their previous two postseason series -- they were up 2-0 on Pittsburgh in 2009 and 3-1 last year against Montreal.

While the other postseason problems from previous decades may not matter much to these players, a lot of these guys have been around for the past two defeats.

"This is so stupid. The media always drags it up," Chimera said. "It is such a dumb thing. It is a different team every year. It is so dumb. [The media] keep on bringing that up, but it is a different team, a different era."

So much has been written about this club's newfound maturity and the lessons the players have learned. That is mostly tied to being committed to a more defensive style of play.

This Game 4 is the next test of that maturity. Can the Capitals brush off a defeat and take care of business at Madison Square Garden? If not, there will be even more questions between Games 4 and 5 about the team's struggles after moving out in front of a series.

"In a series, that is going to happen," Brooks Laich said. "One team is going to push and the other team is going push back. There's going to be swings in momentum like that. It was a very important game and they realized that. I think their chances go way down if they go down 3-0, so they pushed and pushed hard. Now it is our turn to push back.

"Even in the game yesterday, it is 0-0, 1-0, 1-1 -- we're still on the bench comfortable in the hockey game. We're not pressing. We're a calm team on the bench. It was, ‘Just keep doing what we do and we'll find a way to score one.' Even when we got down 2-1 there wasn't any panic. We're strangely comfortable in those tight games."

Added Karl Alzner: "We're not panicking at all. [Game 4] is huge. If you have home ice advantage, you don't need to steal a game on the road but you always want to, so we want to take the game to them in their rink and if we do that, it's going to be good for us in the end. The game where you can get a little bit of a stranglehold is the one you want to get."