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Washington looks to past for motivation

Capitals, who trail Penguins 3-1, allowed Rangers to rally, win playoff series in 2015

by Katie Brown / Correspondent

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Barry Trotz doesn't usually like to talk about history. But the Washington Capitals coach evoked the ghost of Stanley Cup Playoffs past when he took the podium at Kettler Capitals Iceplex on Thursday.

The Capitals lost 3-2 in overtime to the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Second Round at Consol Energy Center on Wednesday. Pittsburgh leads the best-of-7 series 3-1.

In the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Capitals led the New York Rangers 3-1 in their second-round series. In Game 5, Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh's shot deflected off Capitals defenseman Tim Gleason at 9:37 into overtime and New York won 2-1. The Rangers went on to win the series in seven games.

"We were in a reverse situation last year where, Game 5, you know, we had a team basically pretty well down and out," Trotz said, "and they threw a puck to the net and it hits one of our defensemen, goes in, and they end up winning in overtime and that sort of changed it."

Game 5 against Pittsburgh is at Verizon Center on Saturday (7:15 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVA Sports).

Though the Capitals weren't on the winning end of that comeback, the 2015-16 Presidents' Trophy winners aren't ready to give up so easily. They're prepared to stage their own rally this season against the Penguins, faced with the possibility of elimination.

Washington has twice won a series after trailing 3-1; against the Rangers in the first round in 2009, and in the division semifinal against the Philadelphia Flyers in 1989. The Capitals will try to become the 29th team in NHL history to win a best-of-7 playoff series after trailing 3-1.

"You've got to have the belief that if you win one, win the first period, keep going," Trotz said. "If you win one, then things can change. I mean, we were prime candidates to see it firsthand in the Rangers series last year. Hopefully, all we can do is just look at the game in front of us and just take it from there."

The Penguins have lost a series they have led 3-1 three times, most recently in 2014, when they lost to the Rangers in the second round. Washington has lost five series when holding a 3-1 lead.

The way the Capitals responded to adversity during the season -- they were the only team in the NHL that did not lose consecutive games in regulation -- gives Trotz hope Washington will be able to handle whatever the rest of the series may hold. Trotz said he knows things can change in an instant, for better or worse.

"What did we win, 56 games?" Trotz said. "That didn't happen by accident. What that meant is there was a lot of good work put in. Then, knowing these guys for basically the last two years or the last 18 months, to really get to know them, that's where the belief comes in."

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