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Capitals looking ahead to Game 6, not behind

Washington not focused on past failures, seek to extend series against Pittsburgh

by Tom Gulitti @tomgulittinhl / Staff Writer

Barry Trotz seemed to be channeling Thomas Edison on Saturday when discussing how he's been trying to change the mindset of the Washington Capitals.

"You're going to have some learning curve in anything you do in life and anything that's been successful ever, it's probably failed hundreds of times before it had some success, but you just keep learning from that," the Capitals coach said after his team stayed alive with a 3-1 victory against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 5 of Eastern Conference Second Round at Verizon Center one day earlier.

The Capitals remain one loss from elimination, trailing 3-2 in the best-of-7 series with Game 6 on Tuesday at Consol Energy Center (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN), but have a little life and momentum after winning Saturday.

That they have failed before in the Stanley Cup Playoffs has been well documented. They have not been past the second round since they made their lone appearance in the Stanley Cup Final in 1998.

Video: PIT@WSH, Gm5: Oshie buries home rebound for PPG

The burden of those disappointments has grown for this group as they have repeatedly fallen short of expectations, which were at their highest after the Capitals ran away with the Presidents' Trophy and set a franchise record with 56 wins during the regular season. Since taking over the Capitals before last season, Trotz has been trying to instill in his players that this team is different and what happened in the past is just that -- the past.

"In this market, it seems like everybody brings up the past and it's funny because the past a lot of times it's not relevant," Trotz said Sunday. "It's just a story for [the media], but it's really not relevant to the group, for me, because every group changes from year to year."

Trotz said he chuckled at some players being asked about Pat LaFontaine's goal in quadruple overtime that gave the New York Islanders a Game 7 win over the Capitals in the first round of the 1987 playoffs. 

"I've got guys on my team going, 'I have no idea who Pat LaFontaine is. Why are they asking me about something that happened [30] years ago? That has no effect on me,'" Trotz said.

There have been plenty of more recent playoff disappointments, however, including blowing a 3-1 series lead against the New York Rangers in the second round of last year's playoffs. In the Alex Ovechkin era, which began in 2005-06, the Capitals reached the second round of the playoffs four previous times and weren't able to get over the hump.

Video: PIT@WSH, Gm 5: Ovechkin fires a one-timer for PPG

After falling in a 3-1 series hole against the Penguins, the Capitals appeared ready to add another unfulfilling chapter to their Cup-less history.

That was when Trotz started talking like an undeterred inventor.

The quote attributed to Edison concerned how many times he failed in attempting to invent the incandescent lightbulb. Depending upon the version of the story, the number ranges from 700 to 10,000.

"I have not failed 999 times," Edison told a French reporter in one account. "I have simply found 999 ways how not to create a light bulb."

Trotz reminded his team that this way of thinking applies to "anything that's been invented."

In their quest to reinvent themselves as champions, the Capitals have found several ways not to win the Stanley Cup. Although it is important to learn from those failures, Trotz doesn't want his team to be weighed down by them.

"I think we've been able to have a real short-term focus on the next game looking forward and we can't change the past," Trotz said. "All we can do is change what we're going to do the next game and I think that's a real good mindset for our hockey team to have."

Trotz believes that mindset worked well for the Capitals during the regular season, citing it as a reason why they never lost two consecutive games in regulation. But regular season success has not been a problem for this franchise.

Video: Caps stave off elimination with 3-1 victory over Pens

The players have at least talked like they're buying in. Any mentions of the past postseason failures have quickly brought responses such as, "It's a totally different year."

Those were Ovechkin's words minutes after a 3-2 overtime loss in Game 4 on Wednesday in Pittsburgh. Having Ovechkin on board is essential for the Capitals to have any form of success.

He showed again Saturday that he is still the locomotive that pulls the Capitals' train. Playing like a man who didn't want his season to end, Ovechkin scored the Capitals' first goal, assisted on T.J. Oshie's game winner, had six of their 19 shots on goal and three hits.

As important as the victory was, Ovechkin said the Capitals needed to forget it.

"The next one is a big one, I think, with our team and with our group," he said. "We can't stop."

That, as Trotz said Sunday, is the reality the Capitals face.

"The reality is that we were down 3-1 and the reality is we've got to dig ourselves out of it," Trotz said.

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