PITTSBURGH — There is momentum — the Washington Capitals are coming off of a 4-2 win Saturday against the Pittsburgh Penguins to remain alive in an Eastern Conference semifinal playoff series.
Then there is reality — the Capitals trail the series 3-2 and again will face elimination when the teams meet Monday in Game 6 at PPG Paints Arena.
“All it’s going to take is all we have, and all we have is our leadership, the 20 players we dress. They’re going to have to be all in,” Washington coach Barry Trotz said Sunday during a conference call with reporters.
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If the Capitals get that and it translates to a win, it earns them a winner-take-call Game 7 back in Washington on Wednesday.
Evgeny Kuznetsov, who scored his fourth goal of the series in Game 5 and has a career-high eight points in these playoffs, said Game 7 hasn’t been on the Capitals’ radar since then fell to the brink of elimination at 3-1.
“We talked about winning the first game and then going to Pittsburgh and win another game,” he said. “Now we have to focus on the second game. We can’t think about Game 7. We just focus on Game 6 right now.”
Alex Ovechkin scored one of three third-period goals in Game 5 as Washington erased a one-goal deficit to pull off a comeback win at Verizon Center.
A nice accomplishment, but Ovechkin considers it just one step in the Presidents’ Trophy club’s mission.
“We’re still down,” said Ovechkin, who has 12 goals, 26 points in 18 career playoff games against the Penguins, including two goals, five points this series.
“We take good moments in the game (Saturday) and move forward.”
The Penguins, who are 4-1 at home this postseason, share a mantra as they look to eliminate Washington in six games for the second spring in a row.
“We just have to have a short memory and get back for Game 6,” Penguins defenseman Brian Dumoulin said. “We just need to get the job done and learn from these (games).”
Coach Mike Sullivan agreed nearly word for word.
“We’ve got to have a short memory,” Sullivan said. “We’ve got to reset our mindset and go home and try to put our very best on the ice.”
The Penguins’ best likely would include more scoring chances.
Despite being ahead in the series, Pittsburgh has been outshot in every game, by an average of 34.8 to 23. In all but Game 3, the Capitals have had at least 10 more shots than the Penguins.
Pittsburgh center Sidney Crosby, who unexpectedly returned from a concussion to play in Game 5 on Saturday, believes rectifying that will take a better job of puck possession.
“I would say just a little bit more zone time,” he said. “If we can hold onto the puck a little bit more, we should get more shots. I think we’ll generate a little bit more from that. Just being a little bit better in the offensive zone.”
Pittsburgh defenseman Trevor Daley, who suffered a lower-body injury in Game 5, did not participate in the morning skate and was ruled out of Monday’s game. He is listed as day-to-day.