ARLINGTON, V.A. — For defenseman Nick Jensen, Game 4 against the Florida Panthers will be the Washington Capitals’ most difficult game to date in 2021-22.
There’s a lot at stake in Monday’s showdown for both teams as the opening round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs rolls on. The Capitals have a chance to take a commanding 3-1 series lead and move one step closer to round two on home ice, while the Presidents’ Trophy winners will come out swinging and desperate to tie the series following a 6-1 clobbering back on Saturday.
“We got to be ready for again their best game of the year. They’re fighting, a limited amount of games. They don’t wanna go down 3-1. This is gonna be their most desperate game of the year. And they’re gonna be playing as hard as they can, and we gotta match that intensity. It’s gonna be tough. I mean, it was great getting a win in your building and going up in the series but this is going to be the toughest game we played all year for sure.”
Washington is sticking to what worked in Game 3, as the team will have to make do without Tom Wilson again. Connor McMichael will draw in to help fill the void, while Anthony Mantha will fill in for No. 43 on the second line with Marcus Johansson and Nicklas Backstrom. That unit combined for six points in the Game 3 victory and will be relied upon again.
“We came out harder, we responded,” Johansson said after Game 3. “[Game 2] kind of pissed us off a little bit, and we played a good 60 minutes… I think we earned the win and the goals we got as well. Overall, a good team effort.”
Trevor van Riemsdyk has also liked what he’s seen from the Capitals from a defensive standpoint. He said that he has seen the blue line step up throughout the series and believes that if the defense can keep it up, the team can continue to shut the Cats down.
“The playoffs becomes a little bit of a chess match,” TVR said. “Obviously, you learn what they like to do, what they’re trying to do. You adjust and then they kind of see what you’re doing to adjust to them, and they make their adjustments. So it’s just trying to stay one step ahead of them, and I’m sure they’re trying to do the same to us… we’ve got to kind of approach every game the same. You’ve got to come out ready to start.”
Head coach Peter Laviolette agreed, but also stressed the importance of not stepping off the gas after the dominant showing.
“If we don’t follow it up, then that’s on us,” head coach Peter Laviolette said bluntly. “It’s got to be pointed from right now. We’ve got to make sure that our mindset is knowing exactly where they’re at. Our preparation, our work, our detail: that has to be the priority.”
When it comes to what to carry over from Game 3, Lars Eller emphasized the passion and structure the team played with, as well as the consistent play through 60 minutes. Also, discipline will be crucual against Florida, as the Panthers can draw different teams into mistakes and make them pay.
“Almost play like you’re tied or you’re down in the series. We can’t let up with that. You talk a little bit about like an angry mindset. Just be fired up from the beginning. But at the same time I think we did a good job last game of staying composed and keeping our emotions in check,” Eller explained. “Like we were emotionally involved but we’re not going too far and getting carried away and taking too many unnecessary penalties. Although we’d like to be a little bit less in the penalty box than we have at times. There’s different areas where we can be a little bit better, but there’s a lot of things to like. Just want to copy as many things as we can from last game going into today. So same preparation, same thinking.”
Washington drops the puck with Florida at 7 p.m. at Capital One Arena.