PITTSBURGH -- The Washington Capitals had what seemed like the perfect situation heading into Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Second Round against the Pittsburgh Penguins:
Pittsburgh's top defenseman, Kris Letang, was suspended, and defenseman Olli Maatta was out with an injury.
Instead, the Capitals lost 3-2 in overtime at Consol Energy Center and are on the brink of elimination heading into Game 5 at Verizon Center on Saturday (7:15 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVA Sports). The Penguins lead the best-of-7 series 3-1.
"Whenever you lose a game, it's obviously an opportunity missed, but it had nothing to do with them missing some of their players," Washington forward Jay Beagle said. "We're looking forward. Our back's against the wall and the most important game of our lives is coming up."
With Letang suspended one game for his hit on forward Marcus Johansson in Game 3, it seemed like the door was opening for the Capitals to get a split in Pittsburgh that would even the series before going back to Washington.
Video: WSH@PIT, Gm4: Hornqvist wins Game 4 for Pens in OT
Add to the mix that the Penguins were also missing forward Eric Fehr, and they seemed ripe for the picking.
"We didn't take advantage of it," Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. "One thing I said to the guys coming into this, and we talked it about it yesterday, was when Kris got his suspension, is that they're going to rally. Their whole team, their forwards are going to come back. They talked about they didn't play their best game (in Game 3) and now they have Letang out and everybody had to step up on their side, and I thought they did."
Jay Beagle gave the Capitals a 1-0 lead in the first period, but the Penguins quickly tied it with a goal from Carl Hagelin. Pittsburgh center Matt Cullen, whose line gave Washington fits all game, scored early in the second period.
Video: WSH@PIT, Gm4: Cullen goes five-hole to give Pens lead
John Carlson's tying goal seemed to revive the Capitals, but a misplay by defenseman Mike Weber allowed Patric Hornqvist to win it for the Penguins in overtime.
"That's why it's sudden death. That's what it feels like," Trotz said. "We'll just have to live with it. This group has dealt with a lot of things. I think they've handled adversity pretty well all year, so they'll have to do it again. We've dug ourselves a hole we'll see if we can dig ourselves out a little bit."
To the Capitals, it was more than just needing to take advantage of an opponent's depleted lineup. They needed to tie the series.
Goalie Braden Holtby shouldered most of the blame. He declined to comment on the performance of the rest of the team but said he needed to do a better job of stopping the puck. Holtby made 30 saves.
Washington did not lose two consecutive games in regulation during the regular season before losing two to the Philadelphia Flyers in the first round. Now the Capitals have lost three straight games to the Penguins.
"We're a good team," Holtby said. "We have the experience, the composure. It's just a matter of bringing it to use now. Got to keep pushing forward, hopefully the bounces will go our way sooner or later. Focus on the next game and all you can do it put your best effort out there."