PITTSBURGH -- Up to this point, the Eastern Conference Second Round between the Washington Capitals and the Pittsburgh Penguins has followed roughly the same script as the second-round series between the teams last year.
Like then, the Capitals trailed 3-1 in the best-of-7 series, but won Game 5 at home at force a Game 6. Last season they were eliminated in Game 6 in Pittsburgh.
They face another Game 6 in Pittsburgh at PPG Paints Arena on Monday (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports), and if they are going to change their path and avoid repeating their disappointing history again, this is where and when it needs to happen.
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"It's an opportunity to be in the same situation and write a different ending, which is very lucky for us. That's what you want," defenseman Karl Alzner said Monday. "You want another opportunity and a crack at the game and this is exactly it."
The Capitals spent a long summer thinking about what they could have done differently after losing Game 6 last year. If they could have had a chance then to play that game over, they would have taken it.
Now they have it and don't want to waste the opportunity.
"Seldom in life do you get a chance to be in a position like we were last year, the position we were a couple of games ago," Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. "So it's just an opportunity. We're going to focus on [Game 6] and we have to. All that last game has done is get us an opportunity to continue to play and that's how we have to approach [Game 6]."
The Capitals won the Presidents' Trophy last season but couldn't get past the Penguins, who went on to win the Stanley Cup. The Capitals were Presidents' Trophy winners again this season and have run into the Penguins again.
With all the talk of history repeating itself after they fell behind 3-1 in the series, the Capitals started viewing their past differently. They've been saying all season this team is different from those that preceded it. The only way to prove that now is to come back and win this series.
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Winning Game 6 would be a significant step in that direction.
"We can't win the series tonight, but it's kind of been the question with ourselves, with the way that we finished in years past," Capitals right wing T.J. Oshie said. "It's been the question in the media if we can get out of [the second round], if we've got what it takes to go all the way, and I think in times like these you find out a lot about yourself and you show people a lot about what you're about.
"And I think it's a good opportunity for us to show that this isn't the year that we're going to go home early."
Of course, those are only words unless the Capitals back them up by winning Game 6 and then Game 7 at Verizon Center in Washington on Wednesday. And the Penguins, who are 4-1 at home during the past two seasons when having a chance to close a series, certainly will have a say in all this.
But the Capitals believe this is their moment to shed the burden of their past failures.
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"I think there's just a little bit more resolve, a little bit more belief that we can do it, a little more conviction in our game," Oshie said. "When we get backed into a corner, all year it seemed we found ways to dig ourselves out. We had a lot of ups and downs this year and I think that was a good test for us."
If the Capitals fail this test, another disappointing chapter will be added to their jaded history. No one knows that better than them.
So they've given up trying to hide from it.
"I think we just said, 'Embrace our past,'" Trotz said. "Our past is what it is. We can't change it, but what we can do is change our future. I think we've changed our mindset on that. You don't have to tell us what the past is. We already know.
"That's what I'm saying. We're just focusing on this game."