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Pain of elimination still lingers for Capitals

Wednesday, 01.20.2010 / 3:23 PM / NHL Insider

By Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

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Pain of elimination still lingers for Capitals
Months removed from their playoff ouster at the hands of the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Washington Capitals still hurt.

"Obviously I don't want to dwell on a bad game, but it was definitely the defining moment of the series. It's when they clinched it." -- Brian Pothier

ARLINGTON, Va. --  Bruce Boudreau didn't relive the gory details until a few weeks after, and even then it took him several attempts before he gutted through every minute of the Capitals' brutal 6-2 loss to Pittsburgh in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

"The first couple of times I could only watch it until they scored the first goal, but then I gutted it out and watched it all," Boudreau said Wednesday. "They kicked our butts."

Several players say they haven't seen even a minute of the game that ended their season.

"Why would I watch that?" defenseman Shaone Morrisonn deadpanned.

They barely want to talk about it, but all those memories are being dredged up now that the Capitals are on the verge of playing the Penguins for the first time since that disastrous night inside Verizon Center more than eight months ago.

Washington plays in Pittsburgh at Mellon Arena on Thursday night (7:30 p.m. ET, NHL Network-U.S.), and highlights of Game 7 and the rest of the epic series are sure to be shown on both local TV broadcasts.

The Capitals should just be happy they won't be watching.

"Obviously I don't want to dwell on a bad game, but it was definitely the defining moment of the series," Capitals defenseman Brian Pothier told NHL.com. "It's when they clinched it."

The Capitals have at least proven through their play this season that that their crash-and-burn finish to last season didn't have an adverse affect on them. But they have also been insulated from it because until now, the Penguins have been just another team.

Washington has gone 49 games without having to say a word about Sidney Crosby and Craig Adams scoring back-to-back goals eight seconds apart in the first period of Game 7.

They've gone more than a half a year without having to comment on Bill Guerin and Kris Letang scoring within the first 2:12 of the second period, staking the Penguins' to an insurmountable 4-0 lead and sapping whatever energy was left in a red-clad Verizon Center.

Alex Ovechkin hasn't had to talk about his memorable failed breakaway attempt just 3:01 into a still scoreless game. Marc-Andre Fleury came up with the save of the series there.

"You're over it when you don't talk about it, but it's obviously come up in the last couple of days here," Capitals center David Steckel told NHL.com. "It's something that is going to stay with you. When the season started is when you had to get over it, but it's always going to linger. It's just one of those things."

Even though it's hard to do based on how dreadful Game 7 went, the Capitals are far enough removed from that loss that they can take the learn-from-your-mistakes approach.

For instance, Pothier, who is iffy for Thursday's game with an undisclosed injury, is now able to say that it was "just a bad 60 minutes of my life."

"It's not like I showed up at camp and was like, 'Oh my God, Game 7, my confidence is shattered,' " he added. "It was a bad game at the wrong time is what it was. We didn't play the way we wanted to and it's disappointing that we didn't show up, but we didn't show up for whatever reason. It's not something that's going to kill us for years to come here. If anything, I think it's a great learning tool for us."

Pothier brought up the fact that the Edmonton Oilers of the 1980s had to lose to the New York Islanders before they won and even how Pittsburgh had to lose to Detroit before it  won.

His message is that champions normally have to learn how to cope with heartache before they revel in victory.

The Capitals feel they can be champions this season.

"Soon enough we'll find out," Pothier added.

Not Thursday, mind you.

The regular season, as evidenced by the Capitals 3-0-1 record against the Penguins last season, doesn't "amount to a hill of beans," Boudreau said. But the Capitals are definitely blood thirsty for another crack at the Penguins in the postseason.

"They stole what we wanted," winger Eric Fehr said. "We've got to go through them if we want to win the Cup."

Contact Dan Rosen at drosen@nhl.com
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