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Capitals are paying the price for their miscues

by Dan Rosen /
PITTSBURGH -- Washington defenseman Mike Green knows the deal.

If the Capitals continue to turn the puck over and make miscue after miscue, this Eastern Conference Semifinal series against the Pittsburgh Penguins may not even make it to seven games.

"Any little mistake we make they're doing the right things and they're putting the puck in the net," Green said after another disappointing effort at Mellon Arena on Friday night ended in a 5-3 loss in Game 4. "Not only that, they're forechecking us and making it real tough for us to make plays and our team thrives off of our passing and going to the net."

The Capitals now have burned themselves with their own sloppiness in consecutive games. They nearly got away with it in Game 3 before losing 3-2 in overtime. They weren't even close to stealing Game 4.

The Penguins' second, fourth and fifth goals came directly off Washington turnovers and miscues. Green played a role in all three.

He turned the puck over in the defensive zone in the first period, leading to Bill Guerin's goal 10:47 into the game that put Pittsburgh ahead 2-1. He pinched way too high in the third, leading to a 2-on-1 goal by Sidney Crosby 4:16 into the third. That one wound up being the game-winner as it put the Penguins up 4-2.

Green also sent a blind backhanded pass from behind the goal line in the Penguins' zone that resulted in a turnover and eventually a goal off the rush by Maxime Talbot at 14:46. Green was below the goal line because Washington was pushing for the tying goal.

"I thought he had a couple of gaffes defensively, but we told him to go and I thought he made a really great play on (Chris Clark's) goal and some great offensive plays," Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said. "The last goal I thought he tried to be too cute with it, but it shouldn't have gone in anyway.

"I'm going to defend my players. He's a Norris Trophy candidate. He's good. It's just that sometimes when he's making a mistake they're going in our net. That happens sometimes."

Boudreau also said Capitals' goalie Simeon Varlamov struggled for the first time in the playoffs. Varlamov looked ordinary as he allowed five goals on 28 shots, but Green absolved the 21-year-old rookie of any blame.

"It's not his fault. It's our fault," Green said.

The good news for the Capitals and Green is neither has to do too much talking about Game 4 because Game 5 is Saturday night. The Capitals' performance in Pittsburgh, especially Green's in Game 4, will be a topic of conversation Saturday morning, but all focus shifts to Verizon Center later that night.

The series is even now, and the home teams have held serve.

Washington has to do it again or face the prospect of being eliminated from the Playoffs back here at Mellon Arena on Monday, something that looked like a long shot after back-to-back wins last Saturday and Monday.

"It seems like when teams are in desperate situations they pull through and Pittsburgh is no different," Green said. "They're a great hockey club and they can turn it around just like that and they did these last two games. The good thing is we're going back to our building and it's a must win."

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