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Capitals know they need more to get past Hurricanes in Game 7

(AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)

The Washington Capitals have a simple goal -- they want to win back-to-back Stanley Cups. If they want to keep that dream alive, though, they'll have to find a way to beat the visiting Carolina Hurricanes in Game 7 of the first-round Eastern Conference series Wednesday night.

Washington won last year's Stanley Cup with stifling defense, timely goals and solid play all around. Plus, the Capitals trailed in all four series but rebounded to win. In this series, though, the Metropolitan Division champions often have been outplayed by Carolina, and that's why it's tied at three games apiece.

Carolina's ferocious physical play has made it tough for Washington to establish its offense and clear the puck on defense. The Capitals have done better in these areas in the past two games, but the Hurricanes came through again and scored a 5-2 victory in Game 6 on Monday at home to even up the series.

Washington turned in a strong performance in a 6-0 victory Saturday at home in Game 5 but struggled at times in Game 6. Carolina's aggressiveness certainly bothered the Capitals during various stretches of the last game once again.

Simply put, the Capitals have to play better if they want to advance.

"I think we needed a little more from all of our players," Washington coach Todd Reirden said after Game 5. "For us, with losing a player like (T.J.) Oshie a couple of games ago, we needed everyone's game to be at a higher level. I think we had that in Game 5 at home. We didn't have that tonight from enough people."

The top line of Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Tom Wilson have played well, but the Capitals need something more from Evgeny Kuznetsov. He hasn't nearly been the factor he was in last year's playoffs, and the Capitals can use his help on offense. He hasn't scored a goal yet in this series.

Carolina has gotten a great series from Warren Foegele, who scored his fourth goal in the six games during Game 6. Dougie Hamilton and Jordan Staal also have pitched in, along with Teuvo Teravainen.

Staal gave the Hurricanes a 3-2 lead with a goal in the third period on a great individual effort. Teravainen also scored and Staal finished with a goal and an assist.

Carolina coach Rod Brind'Amour said that a big reason for his team's success is that their big guns have come out firing, and that's something he considers crucial.

"Obviously it's not that easy," he told the media after Game 6. "But we've said all along, your best players have to be your best players all year, but in the playoffs especially. Those guys obviously contributed and had big games."

Goalie Petr Mrazek had another good game Monday night. He made some tough saves from in close when the Capitals got their scoring chances, kept the Hurricanes in it early, and that let them take over late.

Andrei Svechnikov (concussion) did not play again for Carolina, and his status for Game 7 was not known as of Tuesday. Micheal Ferland (upper-body injury) also was out again for Carolina in Game 6, however both forwards skated Tuesday, which was a day off for Carolina. Svechnikov and Ferland also skated Monday ahead of Game 6. Oshie is done for the season after being injured in Game 4 (broken collarbone).

Another factor in Game 7 might be home ice. Through the first six games, the home team has won each contest. The Capitals hope the loud red-clad fans in Washington will help them keep their dream alive in the series finale.

--Field Level Media

Updated April 23, 2019

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