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After consecutive regulation losses, Capitals face questions about last season's swoon

After consecutive regulation losses, Capitals face questions about last season's swoon

With Thursday’s 4-2 loss in San Jose, the Capitals have now suffered consecutive regulation losses for the first time in more than three months.

The defeat also dropped the Caps’ record to 5-4-1 since the team returned from the bye week.

Their average goals per game since the five-day hiatus? A pedestrian 2.2 per contest.

Indeed, it’s been an unsettling stretch for the NHL’s top team, which encountered a similar malaise late last season. But, according to Coach Barry Trotz and his players, there's no sense of panic or déjà vu spreading over the dressing room.

“We haven’t lost two in a row for a while, so it does seem a little awkward,” Coach Barry Trotz acknowledged to reporters at SAP Center. “But this group is great at responding, and we’ll have to go into L.A. and see if we can respond.”

Asked if he sees any similarities between last year’s soft stretch run and the current downturn, Trotz said: “No. I think this team is a little different. I think last year when we had such a lead, we just sorta parked it. I don’t think you can say we’re doing that. From our standpoint we’re in a race with a lot of good teams in the Metro right now. So, I don’t think that’s a concern at all.”

A year ago, the Caps went 10-4-6 in their final 20 games. This year, the Caps are 2-2-0 in the first four games of that 20-game sprint to the finish.

“It hasn’t been [like] how we went into the break,” winger Brett Connolly said. “We were humming pretty good. We’ve got a new player in [Kevin] Shattenkirk and [Andre Burakovsky] goes down. So we’re still finding our game a little bit. If you ask anybody, I don’t think we’re happy with how we’ve come out of the break. We’re looking to fix that. This is not our style. …We just gotta take a deep breath. We’re still in first place. We still have a great hockey team.”

The Caps’ three-game California trip continues Saturday at Staples Center in Los Angeles. The Kings are battling for their playoff lives, sitting a point out of the second wild card spot in the West.

Washington, meantime, will be looking to avoid losing three straight games in regulation for the first time since Feb. 2015 as its captain and leading goal scorer, Alex Ovechkin, searches for his first goal since Feb. 19, nine games ago.

“We don’t want to lose three in a row,” Connolly said. “L.A. is a big game. …Now we need to go into L.A. and beat a good hockey team.”

Defenseman Karl Alzner acknowledged that a few recent opponents have played with more desperation than the Caps have brought to the rink. But that said, Alzner scoffed at the suggestion that last year’s late-season swoon is happening all over again.

“No, not at all,” he said. “It’s a different team. That’s the thing that everyone always wonders. It’s just coincidence right now. We all know that we can turn it up and things will be better. This is a tough stretch of the year. These are good teams that we’re playing right now and [their] fight is a little bit more intense than our fight is right now. When it comes to time to really show our true colors, I think we’re going to show them.”  

MORE CAPITALS: Prospect report: Caps boast 4 of NHL's top 100 prospects

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Capitals vs. Penguins: Game 3 time, TV channel, how to watch, live stream

Capitals vs. Penguins: Game 3 time, TV channel, how to watch, live stream

Down 2-0 in the series, the Caps now face the daunting task of trying to battle back against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Pittsburgh. Following their loss in Game 2, the team held a players-only meeting. Will the message resonate and lead to a big performance in Game 3?

After giving up three goals in the second period on Saturday, Braden Holtby was pulled for Philipp Grubauer. On Monday, however, it will be Holtby in net to start again for Washington as he tries to find his Vezina form. Kevin Shattenkirk will also look for a bounce-back game after a tough start to the series. He now sits with a team-low plus/minus rating of minus-7.

Karl Alzner remains day-to-day. If he is ready to play Monday, could Barry Trotz choose to dress seven defensemen?

RELATED: CAPITALS vs. PENGUINS PLAYOFF PREVIEW

CAPITALS VS. PENGUINS GAME 3 HOW TO WATCH

Who: Washington Capitals vs. Pittsburgh Penguins
What: Game 3 2017 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs, Eastern Conference Second Round
When: 7:30 p.m. ET on Monday, May 1
Where: PPG Paints Arena, Pittsburgh, Pa.
Online Stream: NBCSN's live stream pagee. Watch Caps GameTime at 6:30 p.m. and Caps Extra following the game with CSN's live stream page here.
TV Channel: NBC Sports Network
Radio: 1500 AM (Capitals Radio Network)

RELATED: STANLEY CUP POWER RANKINGS

WHEN IS CAPITALS-PENGUINS GAME 3?

The Capitals and Penguins square off in Game 3 of their 2017 second-round playoff series on Monday, May 1 at 7:30 p.m. ET.

WHAT CHANNEL IS CAPITALS-PENGUINS GAME 3 ON?

Game 3 of the Capitals-Penguins series will be broadcast on NBC and CBC in Canada.

WHERE CAN I STREAM CAPITALS-PENGUINS GAME 3?

Capitals-Penguins Game 3 is available to stream live here through NBCSN's live stream page. Caps GameTime and Caps Extra pre and postgame shows are available to stream live here through CSN's live stream page.

WHAT ARE THE LINES FOR CAPITALS-PENGUINS GAME 3?

Here are the projected lines for Capitals-Penguins Game 3:

CAPITALS

Forwards
Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - T.J. Oshie
Marcus Johansson - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Justin Williams
Andre Burakovsky - Lars Eller - Tom Wilson
Daniel Winnik - Jay Beagle - Paul Carey

Defense
Nate Schmidt - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov - Matt Niskanen
Brooks Orpik - Kevin Shattenkirk

Goalies
Braden Holtby starts with Philipp Grubauer as backup

Scratches
Brett Connolly, Karl Alzner, Taylor Chorney

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS GAME 1 LINES

Forwards
Jake Guentzel - Sidney Crosby - Phil Kessel
Bryan Rust - Evgeni Malkin - Conor Sheary
Carl Hagelin - Nick Bonino - Scott Wilson
Chris Kunitz - Matt Cullen - Tom Kuhnhackl

Defense
Ian Cole - Justin Schultz
Brian Dumoulin - Ron Hainsey
Olli Maatta - Trevor Daley

Goalies
Marc-Andre Fleury starts with Tristan Jarry as backup

Scratches
Patric Hornqvist, Carter Rowney, Mark Streit, Chad Ruhwedel, Matt Murray

RELATED: 2017 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF PREDICTIONS

CAPITALS-PENGUINS GAME 3 BETTING LINES

Stanley Cup Odds: Capitals 7/2 (+350), Penguins 17/4 (+425)
Game 3 Spread: Capitals +1.5
Game 3 Over/Under: 5.5 goals
Game 3 Money Line: Capitals (+105), Penguins (-125)

CAPITALS-PENGUINS GAME 3 OPEN THREAD

Use the comment section below to discuss the game action with other Capitals fans. 

CSN ON TWITTER:
— CSN's official Capitals account CSN Capitals 
— Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir
— Capitals Digital Producer JJ Regan
— Capitals Desk Producer Troy Machir

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Keep up with all the action here with Capitals GameZone and join in on the conversation here with Capitals Pulse.

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Barry Trotz puts option of dressing seven defensemen on the table

Barry Trotz puts option of dressing seven defensemen on the table

Karl Alzner has been out of the lineup since Game 2 of the Capitals’ first-round series with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Just who he will replace in the lineup when he is ready to return, however, has become a topic of debate as Nate Schmidt has played well in his place and the Caps need his speed against a quick Pittsburgh Penguins team.

RELATED: Trotz says Shattenkirk's play is 'mooring' Caps' third pair

It has been speculated recently that perhaps head coach Barry Trotz could elect to dress seven defensemen. That sounds like a drastic option, but it is one Trotz has experience with having utilized it at times as head coach of the Nashville Predators.

“I've done it before and done it very successfully,” Trotz said on Friday. “... I found in my previous life that I didn't have as many offensive weapons that gave me an opportunity to put an offensive weapon in there a little bit more often in a regular rotation.”

Dressing seven defensemen would mean only 11 forwards, but Trotz seems to only be utilizing that many anyway. Paul Carey skated only 5:40 in Game 2. He was playing in place of Brett Connolly who played 6:07, 5:34, 6:12 and 4:26 in his last four games.

Alzner is considered day-to-day and there’s no timetable for when he may be able to return. If he were able to play in Game 3 or 4, however, given that the Caps are facing a series deficit and seem to be in need of some sort of spark, perhaps shifting the lineup to seven defensemen could be just what the doctor ordered.

“I'm fine with the seven D,” Trotz said. “If we have to go there, we'll go there. As a coach, you have to mix and match a little bit. I don't have any problem with that.”

MORE CAPITALS: Barry Trotz commits to Braden Holtby for Game 3