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Capitals look to implement last year's lessons

by Dan Rosen
ARLINGTON, Va. -- Mike Green fired in the equalizer and Alex Ovechkin ripped the winner past Martin Biron to give the Washington Capitals a 1-0 lead over Philadelphia in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal last year.

Before the Caps' could breathe again following their stirring, come-from-behind 5-4 win in Game 1, the Flyers were up 3-1 in the series.

"We learned that it can all be over just that quick," Green told Wednesday morning here at the Kettler Capitals Iceplex after Washington had its one final workout before Game 1 against the New York Rangers tonight at 7 p.m. ET (TSN).

Actually, it wasn't over yet. The Capitals came back to even the series at 3-3 before losing Game 7 at Verizon Center in overtime on Joffrey Lupul's winner, but now they can all say one thing in unison:

Lesson learned.

"A lot of us never played in the NHL playoffs until last year and it almost took us halfway through the round to figure out how to play," Green said. "I remember that second game there. We won the first one when we came back, and then we got a little too high and lost the second one. If we would have one it we would have one the series.

"I think we have learned to just stay even keeled and play our game," he continued. "It's what we did all through this season."

Capitals forward Tomas Fleischmann, who played in Games 1 and 2 of last year's series against the Flyers before being made a healthy scratch for the rest of the series, said the Capitals stopped playing their system in Game 2. They lost, 2-0.

"The second game we lost because we tried to do something more than we did in the first game," Fleischmann told "We felt that we were better than we are, you know what I mean. We tried to make plays that we usually didn't do and that cost us three games in a row. We stopped playing the system and the Flyers ended up leading 3-1."

It shouldn't happen this year.

For one, Green said the Capitals are closer than they were even last year if you can believe it. And, remember, last year the Caps were the feel-good story of the Stanley Cup Playoffs and everybody looked at them as the loveable team with the gregarious, gap-toothed, smiling superstar in Alex Ovechkin.

Ovechkin is still that way and the Capitals are still a fun team to watch and be around, but this year they better understand the task at hand.

"We obviously had a lot of fun last year and it was a great run during the regular season, but we didn't even have time to think about playoffs and preparing," Green said. "We were just playing, but now every time the word playoffs comes up, every guy starts to smile. Everyone is just really excited just because it's so much fun. To go out there, with the fans behind you and the building really loud, it's an incredible feeling."

Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau, a loveable feel-good story in his own right, said he has taken time to talk to the team about the Stanley Cup and even showed them a motivational video about it.

Unlike Rangers coach John Tortorella, who said Tuesday that he doesn't talk about the Cup or show a video - "It's way too long a road to that. We don't even see it. That's way too far. " - Boudreau isn't shielding his team from the ultimate goal, the ultimate prize.

That being said, he's also not too sure how much they can gain out of looking back at last year's seven-game series with the Flyers.

"I mean, it's a year ago," Boudreau said. "I think we all make too much of what happened a year ago in every sport and in every walk of life. When I played I don't know if that meant anything. It might mean something for the first five minutes and then that's it. Then all of a sudden you're into this year and you forget about what's happened in the past.

"It's a totally different team," he continued. "I mean, they're not Philly. They don't play the style Philly does. It's a different team so it's a different case scenario."

Yes, the Rangers are a different team than the Flyers. However, even though the personnel is similar - only the goalies, Jose Theodore and Simeon Varlamov, weren't on last year's team - the 2009 Capitals' are also vastly different from the '08 version.

They've run the gamut of emotions in a playoff series and know what it feels like to fail.

"Absolutely that will help," Green said. "Any time you go through something like that you learn what not to do and what to do. A lot of us learned what not to do last year and we're that much better for it."

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