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Williams tries to calm Capitals entering Game 5

Says Washington can 'slowly' come back against Penguins

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / Staff Writer

ARLINGTON, Va. -- When a team is facing elimination in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, you'll usually hear the cliché about taking it one game, one period and one shift at a time.

In that way, forward Justin Williams was no different Friday from most of his Washington Capitals teammates. With the Washington trailing the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-1 in their best-of-7 Eastern Conference Second Round series, Williams sarcastically answered that the Capitals will need to "score more than they do" in Game 5 on Saturday at Verizon Center (7:15 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVA Sports) to stay alive.

"Listen, it's a seven-game series for a reason," a smiling Williams said. "You have to win four. It doesn't matter how you get there. It's one game, it's one shift, it's one period, it's everything at a time and slowly you will build momentum and create doubt in their team. We have plenty of confidence in here."

That Williams, 34, was making jokes at a time when the Capitals are facing familiar questions about their past postseason failures demonstrated his grasp of the obvious and one of the reasons general manager Brian MacLellan signed him to a two-year, $6.5 million contract last summer. 

Williams has been in these situations before. He knows, like everyone else, that the Capitals are one loss away from having their season end well short of their expectations, but he also knows the Penguins haven't won the series, yet.

Video: WSH@PIT, Gm3: Williams scores after Ovi hits post

In the first round of the 2014 playoffs, Williams and the Los Angeles Kings came back from a 3-0 deficit against the San Jose Sharks and went on to win the Stanley Cup. Williams picked up his third Stanley Cup ring and the Conn Smythe Trophy.

Last year, the Capitals held a 3-1 series lead in the second round against the New York Rangers and lost that series in overtime in Game 7.

"I wasn't here last year, but this team knows exactly what it is; 3-1 is 3-1," Williams said. "It's winning one game at a time three times. But I think if you look at a lot of the last Stanley Cup champions, it's not all roses, it's not all being up in every series and being in the driver's seat. You've got to push, you've got to have some adversity and you got to find a way as a team to battle through it and I know we can do it."

When asked what Williams can do for this team in this situation, Capitals coach Barry Trotz recalled a story he said he'd heard from "a third party." It was actually a story defenseman Drew Doughty told after the Kings defeated the New Jersey Devils in Game 6 of the 2012 Stanley Cup Final to capture their first championship.

The Kings led that series 3-0, but lost Games 4 and 5 and were facing some adversity for the first time that playoff year heading into Game 6 at Staples Center. Another loss would have meant a trip back to New Jersey for Game 7 with all the momentum on the Devils' side. 

"They were all sitting there real nervous," Trotz said. "It was a clinching game and Justin just started chuckling when it was pretty tense. … Everybody looked at him and [he] just said, 'I'm going to enjoy celebrating a Cup with you guys tonight.' Sometimes that's very powerful. It's not a big speech. It's knowing the moment, I think. And we have guys that do that. 

"Hopefully, Justin is one of those guys. I know he is just because of the experience I've had with him this year." 

Video: CBJ@WSH: Williams puts the rebound past Bobrovsky

That didn't stop Trotz from dropping Williams from the second line to the third line for practice on Friday. Trotz also split up Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, inserting Evgeny Kuznetsov between Ovechkin and T.J. Oshie on the first line and putting Backstrom with Andre Burakovsky and Marcus Johansson on the second line.

Trotz called it "not a big deal" because he's split up Ovechkin and Backstrom "numerous times" this season. For Game 5, it might allow Trotz to get Ovechkin away from Sidney Crosby's line.

"We've got last change so they give me a little different matchups," Trotz said. "You know, we don't have anything to lose right now."

Regardless of the matchups, however, it's going to come down to execution. The Penguins have been a little sharper in a series of one-goal games, including two that went to overtime. 

The Capitals haven't played their best game. They know Saturday could be their last chance.

"You're professionals for a reason and when your backs are against the wall you're going to scrape and claw for everything you can," Williams said. "That's when you know the most about your team. When you learn about your character the most is when it's win-or-go-home. And it's win-or-go-home for us."

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