Flyers Have Capitals Where They Want Them: Pressure Time

WASHINGTON - Each Capitals player met the question with a type of curtness.

Understandably, Washington was in no mood to talk about its haunting past of postseason collapses. The Capitals had just flushed another clinching opportunity down the toilet while the unforeseen reality of Game 6 in Philadelphia had started to set in.

Here we go again, Washington fans probably muttered exiting the Verizon Center after the Flyers stole Game 5 with a 2-0 win, whittling down their best-of-seven first-round playoff series deficit to 3-2.

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"I don't know anything about the past," Nicklas Backstrom said. "I'm looking forward here. Next game in Philly Sunday."

The past isn't pretty. It's why the postgame discussion revolved around it - unfair or not.

Per the Elias Sports Bureau, the Capitals have relinquished 10 two-game series leads all-time, most such series losses in Stanley Cup Playoffs history. Washington's franchise was conceived in 1974. Fifteen current NHL clubs came before it.

Over their last nine playoff games in which they can eliminate an opponent, the Capitals are 1-8. In the previous 16 such games, they're 3-13. Washington has not fared well in Game 7s, either, going 3-8 in its last 11. And in Game 6s, the Capitals are 1-5 in their past six.

These are the ghosts that reappear each time Washington, carrying loaded expectations, runs into a deep series. Right now, the ghosts aren't far in the distance as this Presidents' Trophy-winning bunch struggles to put away the eighth-seeded Flyers.

Until the Game 4 and 5 defeats, the Capitals hadn't lost consecutive games in regulation all season.

"Not worried about it," Matt Niskanen said.

Washington doesn't care for the history lessons.

"If we play our game, it's going to go our way sooner or later," Braden Holtby said. "Last two games, we just couldn't get any lucky bounces. If we just keep our composure and keep looking forward, there's no way we won't win one of the last two games.

"We're a confident group, a different group than in the past. We're focused on playing seven good games if we need it."

Is it fair, then, to bring up this team's postseason past?

"I don't think this team has any playoff experience," Karl Alzner said. "It's our first playoffs together. In my opinion, no, sorry to be cheeky. That's the truth I think."

From the Flyers' end, they knew winning Game 5 would drastically tilt the series.

It already has considering the buzz of another Capitals crumbling.

Still, they say they're worried about playing better, not who has greater pressure.

But this position sure beats down 3-0.

"You know what, I'm not sure what's going on in their minds, but in our minds, we've got to go out and win [Sunday] and we need to play better than we did [Friday]," Flyers general manager Ron Hextall said Saturday. "Our focus is on the Philadelphia Flyers."

Wayne Simmonds knows pressure still remains for his group.

"I think at this point, it's still on us," he said. "Obviously we're down in the series, we come home and we're just taking it one game at a time. The game [Sunday] is obviously the biggest game of the year, the biggest game of a lot of our careers."

At his postgame press conference Friday night, Washington head coach Barry Trotz felt the topic coming before it even surfaced.

"The only pressure that we'll have is on ourselves," Trotz said. "We've got to go into Philadelphia and we've got to play really well and get a win there. If we don't accomplish that, then we'll go to Game 7."

He expressed confidence in that if the Capitals perform how they did Friday, they'll be fine.

"Keep playing that way and it'll turn," he said.

It hasn't yet - and the history is there, whether the Capitals like it or not.

Just how the Flyers want it.

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