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First Round

Capitals confident they'll have response against Hurricanes in Game 4

Must do better job against forecheck, match Carolina's urgency to keep crowd from being factor

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / Staff Writer

RALEIGH, N.C. -- The Washington Capitals know it's their turn to respond when they play the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference First Round at PNC Arena on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVAS, FS-CR, NBCSWA).

Carolina lost the first two games of the best-of-7 series at Washington but pushed back with a 5-0 win in Game 3, the Hurricanes' first home game in the Stanley Cup Playoffs since 2009.


[RELATED: Capitals vs. Hurricanes series coverage]


"In the playoffs, you kind of make adjustments and there's pushbacks from both teams depending on how the last game or even the last period went, and they won the Game 3 pushback," Capitals forward T.J. Oshie said Wednesday. "Game 4, the momentum is on their side. We've got to find a way to get the momentum back on our side, play physical, play strong, play for each other, block shots. Do all the little things right."

That formula worked well for the Capitals on their way to winning the Stanley Cup last season, and their experience gives them confidence they can do it again.

Even after being outshot 45-18 and looking overwhelmed at times in Game 3, Washington can take control of the series with a win in Game 4 and return home with a chance to advance to the second round by winning Game 5 on Saturday. But the Capitals will have to do a better job of handling Carolina's forecheck and neutralizing the crowd, which fueled the Hurricanes for much of Game 3.

The best way to quiet the crowd would be to score an early goal. The team that scored first has won each of the first three games.

"We knew they were going to make a push," Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin said. "It's a situation when the fans are going to be cheering for you, it's going to be loud and it's good. I think both teams like it, and it was a fun game. Obviously, we lost [Game 3], but with that loss you can win. We're going to try tomorrow to get it in our hands and play much better."

Video: Breaking down the Hurricanes' Game 3 victory

The Hurricanes view Game 4 as an opportunity to build on what they did in Game 3 and even the series. If they can do that after losing the first two games at Washington, they'd put all the pressure on the defending champions heading into Game 5.

"We want to win that game and put maybe a little pressure for them, but we can't think about that," Hurricanes center Sebastian Aho said. "We just have to focus on that game and not on the future and we want to just play a good game."

Although the Hurricanes trail in the series, they've controlled play for two of the first three games with their incessant forecheck, which has forced the Capitals into numerous defensive-zone turnovers. The Capitals were able to make the Hurricanes play catch-up in Game 1 by jumping out to a 3-0 first-period lead and holding on for a 4-2 victory.

Washington played better in Game 2 and grabbed a 2-0 lead in the first period, but Carolina battled back and forced overtime before losing 4-3. In Game 3, Carolina survived an early Washington flurry before taking its first lead of the series on Warren Foegele's deflection goal 9:43 into the first period and kept building from there. The Hurricanes kept the Capitals on their heels for much of the game, holding them without a shot on goal for one stretch of 23:04 that bridged the first and second periods.

"We're hoping it continues the same way," Hurricanes center Jordan Staal said. "We're expecting the same energy from the crowd. … We're hoping it's going to be the same result, same emotion, same everything. Obviously, they're going to come out with a bigger effort, a bigger challenge for us, but we're hoping for the same stuff."

Video: WSH@CAR, Gm3: Foegele tips Faulk's shot past Holtby

The Hurricanes' depth will be tested with forwards Andrei Svechnikov (concussion protocol) and Micheal Ferland (upper body) sidelined after they were injured in the first period of Game 3. The Capitals continue to search for the solution to their own injury problem without defenseman Michal Kempny, who had season-ending surgery April 2 to repair a torn hamstring.

Rookie defenseman Jonas Siegenthaler, 21, will make his playoff debut in place of Christian Djoos, who has struggled in the first three games while averaging 7:24 in ice time.

The Capitals also plan to tweak their forward lines. Oshie will move up to right wing on the first line with Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom in place of Tom Wilson, who will shift into Oshie's former spot on the second line with Jakub Vrana and Evgeny Kuznetsov. Andre Burakovsky will move up to play left wing on the third line with Lars Eller and Brett Connolly, replacing Carl Hagelin, who will drop to the fourth line with Nic Dowd and Travis Boyd.

Boyd will make his series debut in place of Chandler Stephenson after being a healthy scratch the first three games.

All of that shuffling won't matter for Washington if the Capitals can't match the urgency the Hurricanes played with in Game 3.

"Obviously, we're not happy with the way Game 3 went," Connolly said. "But we're still up 2-1 and we've responded all year, all last season in the playoffs, and we've answered all the same questions, everyone has, a million times. We've been through this. Now it's just a matter of getting the job done and responding."

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