Given the stakes of Game 4 for the Capitals, Washington coach Barry Trotz called his team’s 5-4 win a “real test for us.” Once again, the Toronto Maple Leafs made a push with a late goal, but this time, the Capitals held on.
Now as the teams head to the Verizon Center for Game 5 on Friday with the series tied 2-2, Trotz said the Capitals have to continue to build toward a 60-minute effort.
Toronto has also pushed the Capitals to step up.
“We are getting really mentally tough in this series, cause we’re getting — we’re working, and you create your own luck,” Trotz said. “They’ve got some strange goals, and that sometimes can play in your mind a little bit and we fought through that.
“I thought [Wednesday] was a lot of fighting through stuff and we did. That was really good for us.”
Trotz also conceded that a 60-minute domination doesn’t usually happen in the playoffs. But there are areas that the Capitals will look to clean up, specifically the way they end periods.
In Game 4, Washington committed two penalties seconds apart near the end of the second period to give Toronto a 5-on-3 opportunity. The penalties were another instance of mental lapses, akin to when Capitals forward Lars Eller was called for high-sticking 15 seconds before overtime in Game 3, which they lost 4-3. Toronto also scored with 40 seconds left in the second period in Game 3.
Trotz said his team has to stay on its toes.
“We sat back a little more than we needed to,” Trotz said. “I think we’ve got to continue just pushing forward, staying on top of them. We started just sort of going into that neutral-zone forecheck a little bit too easily. And then they put it in there and they’re throwing pucks everywhere. They’re not too selective, as you can see.”
The Capitals, though, have been able to limit Toronto’s chances with adjustments, namely breaking the puck out and having bodies at the net.
Washington was able to maintain a two-goal lead for most of Game 4 because it forced a series-high 29 giveaways. Toronto coughing up the puck allowed the Capitals to control breakaways and dictate the offense.
“You see some of those goals, (Toronto goalie Frederik) Andersen’s having a tough time fighting through traffic,” Capitals forward Tom Wilson said after Game 4. “He’s a good goalie, so we’ve got to get in front of him. You see all of the goals in the playoffs; it’s generally some traffic that causes the goalie to lose it for a second.”
Trotz has tweaked lineups, as well. Defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk played only 13 minutes in Game 4 after being a minus-4 through the series, although his ice time was partly affected because the Capitals had fewer power play chances. Wilson, meanwhile, moved to the third line.
Alexander Ovechkin also got more involved, with his team having a plus-6 shot attempt differential when he was on the ice in full strength, his best outside of the power play. Trotz previously said it was on him to get Ovechkin more ice time.
Trotz also said the Capitals are wrapping their head around what they have to do.
“I think we’ve figured out how we have to play and we’ve just got to do it for longer,” Trotz said.
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