The Washington Capitals know what they must do tonight in Game 6 of their opening-round Stanley Cup playoff series with the Penguins in the Pittsburgh Civic Arena. Now they have to go out on the ice and execute.
The Capitals lead the best-of-seven Patrick Division semifinal series 3-2 after losing Monday at the Capital Centre in Landover, 5-2, to the defending Stanley Cup champions.
"We have to play the same as we've been playing all season," defenseman Kevin Hatcher said yesterday after practice at Piney Orchard Rink. "We didn't exactly play great Monday, but we didn't play that poorly, either. A couple of missed shots did us in."
Al Iafrate rang a shot off the goal post in the first period, Michal Pivonka missed an open net in the third and Peter Bondra missed two excellent opportunities.
"We could have been in good shape," Hatcher said. "We have to make some big hits early in Pittsburgh, get the puck in deep and control the tempo of the game. We also have to better utilize our team speed.
The Capitals won, 7-2, Saturday night to take a 3-1 series lead.
"We stumbled Monday, and now we have to regroup tomorrow and play our game," said Capitals coach Terry Murray. "I don't think Pittsburgh will change a lot defensively. They'll check us hard again and try to take us out of our game. They played 1-2-2 against us, forechecking in the neutral zone and trying to force turnovers. We played into their hands by not dumping the puck in the zone and chasing it.
"We're going to have to get through the neutral zone with more speed and take care of the puck better. We have to get the puck in deep and create more scoring chances."
Monday, the Penguins' prevent defense limited Dino Ciccarelli and Dale Hunter to a combined one shot on goal (by Hunter).
"We mishandled the puck and never got the puck to Dino and Dale," Murray said. "We are going to have to correct that."
Ciccarelli, who has five goals and four assists in the series, says he may need to change his approach to beat Pittsburgh: "I'm going to have fight through the checks and make things happen."
The Capitals, who scored on six of 25 power-play opportunities in the first four games, were 0-for-4 with the extra man Monday.
Captain Rod Langway, who has been on every playoff team in Capitals history, since the 1982-83 season, says special teams will decide the series.
As for Monday's game, Langway said: "Pittsburgh played a responsible-type game. They didn't sit back and let us come at them like in the first four games. They played a half-ice game and were very disciplined. We are going to have to get them out of that kind of play."
Goalie Don Beaupre, who has made 153 saves with a 2.81 goals-against average in the first five games, said his team has to play its best game of the season tonight. "We know what we can do, and we have to do it," he said. "The big things will be to
play tough defense and get more shots."
Caps vs. Penguins
Washington leads series, 3-2 Game 1: Washington 3, Pittsburgh 1
Game 2: Washington 6, Pittsburgh 2
Game 3: Pittsburgh 6, Washington 4
Game 4: Washington 7, Pittsburgh 2
Game 5: Pittsburgh 5, Washington 2
Tonight: At Pittsburgh, 7:35
Friday night: At Washington, 7:35*
* -- if necessary