"You don't need any more motivation. The season could be over and I don't want it, nobody wants it. They don't want it, too. It's going to be a pretty good war over there."
-- Alex Ovechkin
So, what are the Washington Capitals thinking about right now?
Well, simple, little things, of course.
"Right now there are not big things (to think about), just the little things like turnovers at the blue lines and mistakes like that," Capitals defenseman Milan Jurcina told NHL.com. "There is no problem with finding guys to work hard or stuff like that. Everybody is on the same page. It's just important to do the smart, little things."
That includes keeping their emotions in check and not letting their nerves get the best of them, which did happen last month when the Capitals hosted Game 7 against the New York Rangers.
They were tentative at the start and as a result the Rangers were holding the puck in the attacking zone for extended periods of time, something they hadn't done all series.
The Caps were still in it after 40 minutes with the score tied 1-1. They turned it up in the third, outshot the Rangers 13-1, and got a goal from Sergei Fedorov with 4:59 remaining to win the series.
"I didn't think the Rangers were very cautious," Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said. "I think it's a lot easier for the road team in Game 7. They don't have anything to prove and usually they're coming off a loss. What is happening is now they're saying, 'Well, if we lose they expect us to lose,' so they play with sort of a little more reckless abandon and consequently the home team, even with the crowd going crazy, is a little more cautious."
The Caps would like to avoid being cautious Wednesday night, but admittedly, that's not easy to do.
"Of course," said center Nicklas Backstrom, who has at least one point in every Washington win in these playoffs. "I think both teams will try to play more defensively and maybe and step back a little bit, but after a while it's going to be good again."
The Capitals should know. This will be their third Game 7 in as many series' dating back to last year's Eastern Conference Quarterfinal against the Philadelphia Flyers. Meanwhile, the Penguins haven't played in a Game 7 since May 10, 2001.
Sidney Crosby was 13 and coming onto the scene in Cole Harbour, N.S. at that time.
"To us, this is our second Game 7 this week," Boudreau countered, referencing the Caps' win or go home Game 6 in Pittsburgh on Monday night. "We had a Game 7 the other night. There is not a lot of room for error from the goaltender on out."
That's why the Capitals are stressing that they have to not only play their best game of the series, but their best game of the season tonight so they can advance to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 1998, when Alex Ovechkin was a 13-year-old in Moscow.
"We have to play our game," Backstrom said, putting emphasis on the word, "our." "It's really important that we put pressure on them right away. We haven't played as we well as could (yet) so hopefully we can play the way we have played all season against them tonight."
If not now, when?
"You don't need any more motivation," Ovechkin added. "The season could be over and I don't want it, nobody wants it. They don't want it, too. It's going to be a pretty good war over there."
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