TAMPA – Capitals G Braden Holtby basically summed up playoff life for the Capitals after Saturday's Game 5 loss in the Eastern Conference final when he said the team never makes it easy for itself.
"No, we don't," coach Barry Trotz agreed Sunday.
The Capitals, who enjoyed a 2-0 lead in the series, face elimination Monday night in Game 6 against the Lightning. That they play at home could be seen as an advantage, except the Capitals are 3-5 at home in these playoffs and lost their first two games there in this series.
"This group seems to never do anything really easy," Trotz said. "They have responded all the time. That's the grace in it all, is that they do respond, they battle for each other, they find another level."
The Capitals played well in the past two games, outplaying the Lightning for much of the six periods.
And yet, here they are.
F Tom Wilson said the thought of the season possibly ending Monday night will be on their minds as the Caps take the ice.
"You know it's do your die, your back is against the wall, all those cliches," he said. "That being said, it's a sport we've played our whole lives. We're familiar. We just have to make sure we do our thing, execute the game plan and we'll be all right."
About the final 40 minutes …
The Lightning played what it believed was the best period of the postseason during the first period Saturday. But it went away from what it did in the opening 20 minutes after it took a 3-0 lead on F Ryan Callahan's goal 33 seconds into the second.
C Steven Stamkos said the team went into a defensive mode after that.
"Sometimes when you do that, you sit back a little too much," he said. "The talk with us is, let's continue to be aggressive. Obviously not taking any risks or chances, but we're at our best when we're skating and using our legs to check. We saw that in the first period and a half where we were all over them. That's because we were moving our feet, creating turnovers, creating opportunities to score. Our D were skating, allowing our exits out of our zone to be clean and crisp. We just got away from that a little bit. That will be a key for us to start the game (tonight)."
The Lightning will have a watch party for Game 6 at Curtis Hixon Park in downtown Tampa, with three screens for fans to watch the game. The event begins at 6 p.m. Puck drop is approximately 8:15.
The Lightning is the third team since conference play began in 1975 to take a 3-2 lead in the conference finals/semifinals after trailing 2-0, ESPN Stats and Info says. The previous two teams won their series in six games.