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Trotz confident Capitals can come back in series

Coach expects better effort against Pittsburgh in Game 5 when Washington faces elimination

by Tom Gulitti @tomgulittinhl / NHL.com Staff Writer

ARLINGTON, Va.-- When Barry Trotz stood behind the lectern at Kettler Capitals Iceplex and answered questions Thursday about the perilous position his team is in, the Washington Capitals coach was shivering.

The heat is on Trotz and the Capitals, who trail the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-1 in their best-of-7 Eastern Conference Second Round series and face elimination in Game 5 on Saturday (7:15 p.m.; NBC, CBC, TVA Sports), but that wasn't enough to counteract wearing a short-sleeve golf shirt inside an ice rink.

"I'm freezing by the way," Trotz said. "I don't know if you've noticed."

It was also noticeable that Trotz was a little disappointed in the performance of some of his players in this series. After the Capitals rolled to the Presidents' Trophy with 120 points and set a franchise record with 56 wins during the regular season, this was supposed to be their best team, their best chance of the Alex Ovechkin era to finally get past the second round in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and win it all.

This was also supposed to be Trotz's best chance. The 53-year-old Winnipeg native coached some good teams during his 15 seasons with the Nashville Predators, including one in 2006-07 that had 51 wins and 110 points, but none with the star power and firepower of these Capitals and none that entered the playoffs as the favorite.

Video: WSH@PIT, Gm4: Beagle lifts his backhand shot into net

"From top to bottom, in terms of personnel, I think this is probably as good a team as we've ever had," Trotz said before clarifying that for him personally, "It would rank up there probably one or two."

So, although there were some disappointments when Trotz wasn't able to get the Predators beyond the second round, not getting this team past the Penguins would surpass them all.

That is not to say the Penguins aren't a very good team and don't deserve their commanding series lead. Their most impressive performance was in their 3-2 overtime victory in Game 4 on Wednesday despite playing without their two of their top four defensemen in Kris Letang (one-game suspension) and Olli Maatta (upper-body injury).

The Capitals' depth on their defense has been tested with Brooks Oprik serving the first two games of his three-game suspension for his interference hit on Maatta in Game 2 and has not held up well. After a bad giveaway by Nate Schmidt led to Carl Hagelin's winning goal in Game 3, Trotz decided to replace him with veteran Mike Weber for Game 4.

Weber was in the middle of the chaos that led to Patric Hornqvist's overtime winner and was unable to handle the puck in the slot, putting it directly on Hornqvist's stick in the right circle.

Video: WSH@PIT, Gm4: Holtby stretches out to rob Crosby

"We have no doubt that was the right decision," Trotz said of playing Weber. "It was unfortunate on that play that if you really dissect that play down, [Weber], really, is not the guy [responsible for the goal]."

The Capitals' depth up front also has not materialized. Sidney Crosby has no goals and one assist and Evgeni Malkin has one goal and one assist in the series, but it hasn't mattered since Pittsburgh has been getting goals throughout their lineup.

That hasn't been the case for the Capitals. Their second line showed signs of life Wednesday after Trotz put Andre Burakovsky back at left wing with Evgeny Kuznetsov and Justin Williams. That line's pressure eventually led to defenseman John Carlson's goal that tied the game at 2-2 with 3:41 left in the second period.

"When you look at production through the playoffs, we haven't had a lot out of certain guys," Trotz said. "We just need it. We're playing a team that gets production from all four lines. We cannot afford to not have production from any lines to have a chance to win the series."

Video: Hornqvist wins Game 4 for Pens in OT

Penguins coach Mike Sullivan maneuvered in Game 4 to get Crosby's line with Conor Sheary and Hornqvist away from the matchup against the Capitals top line of Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie for some shifts and it resulted in Crosby's most active game in the series. With the series shifting to Verizon Center for Game 5, Trotz will have the last change before each faceoff and said he is "looking at" trying to get a more favorable matchup for Ovechkin, Backstrom and Oshie.

"We have to find another way to not really reinvent the game, but just execute better, be a little sharper," Trotz said. "If we get a chance to score, we've got to bury our chances. Those are the things that are going to matter, and then we've got to stay with it. You've got to have the belief that if you win one -- win the first period, keep going. If you win one, then things can change."

The Capitals saw that in the second round against the New York Rangers last season. They led 3-1 in that series and 1-0 late in the third period of Game 5 before Chris Kreider tied the game on a goal that deflected in off Carlson. The Rangers went on to win that game in overtime and then the series.

Trotz believes the Capitals are capable of doing the same against the Penguins.

"There's a reason we won 56 games," Trotz said. "That didn't happen by accident. What that meant was a lot of good work was put in. There was a lot of belief in the group. There was a lot of response after maybe a loss or two. That's where the belief comes in. Knowing these guys for basically the last two years or the last 18 months, to really get to know them, that's where the belief comes in."

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