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Pushed to the Brink, Eller, Caps Seek Solutions

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Washington is eager to right their wrongs following a 4-1 loss to Boston in Game 4 that has them on the brink of elimination from the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Washington Capitals v Boston Bruins Photo by Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images

The Washington Capitals didn't mince words after Game 4 against the Boston Bruins and again find themselves facing elimination and down 3-1 in their Stanley Cup Playoff series against the Boston Bruins.

From the get-go, it appeared to head coach Peter Laviolette that the team was “off.” The Caps couldn't seem to find their footing at TD Garden, and that slow start lingered throughout regulation as they suffered a tilted 4-1 loss.

“We’ve got to play a better game than we did,” Laviolette said. “The first three games were relatively close. We weren’t good enough, we weren’t fast enough, we didn’t execute well.”

In Game 4, the main issue for Washington appeared to be a lack of execution, momentum, chemistry and perhaps effort. The team went the final 11 minutes of the first without registering a shot on goal and were held to just 20 shots, while Boston piled 37 on Ilya Samsonov.

In the end, the scoresheet — and the team’s play — spoke volumes.

“We just need five guys wanting to have the puck, supporting each other. When we’re pretty spread out, it feels like there’s one or two guys attacking,” Lars Eller said. “We’ve gotta support each other a lot better... play faster. Just everything. Every aspect of the game, we’ve got to be better.”

Not only were the Caps struggling on the forecheck at even strength, but their woes carried over to their 5-on-4 play. They went 1-for-7 on the man advantage, with the only goal coming from an Alex Ovechkin shot that went off the skate of Brandon Carlo and in. Besides that, Boston did a fine job in limiting their scoring chances and took away several passing lanes, while also making solid plays to clear and even generate some shorthanded scoring chances.

Nicklas Backstrom acknowledged the man advantage and saying the team needs to “come up with something new” and that the Bruins have been able to read their power-play unit unit well.

“We have to create more offensive chances. [We need to] just move around more and make sure we create those chances for ourselves. It’s not just going to happen,” Backstrom explained. “I just think that when we got a chance there, we have to create some more offensive zone looks. They’re blocking a lot of shots and you gotta make it harder for them to defend.”

Beyond generating opportunities, Eller was blunt: Washington needs to stay out of the box and limit their time playing on the PK.

“I’m not picking on any guys here but it’s crucial to stay disciplined in the playoffs. We can’t put ourselves down you know, five, six penalties. We just gotta be better in that department,” Eller said. “More discipline, don't put ourselves in that situation. I think also part of it is we got to play better with the puck so we’re not chasing the whole time. We gotta take better care of the puck, we gotta want the puck... our team can be a lot better than what we showed tonight. So I think that’s one of the areas that I know we can improve on.”

NHL: MAY 21 Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round - Capitals at Bruins Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

As the Caps find themselves with their backs against the wall heading into Game 5 (as was the case in 2020), Backstrom and Laviolette implied the team would hold a meeting to talk things over and break down what’s going wrong and how they can put the pieces back together to pull off a rally.

“It’s disappointing and frustration as well,” Backstrom said. “At the same time, it’s not over... we gotta get our confidence back.”

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Eller agreed and mentioned that the key to saving their 2020-21 campaign will be to move forward and flip the script.

“I want to see a different team and get [Game 5] at home. I believe we can do that. I’ve seen it before,” Eller said, adding, “You put this disappointment behind you, you reset mentally. You know the situation you’re in,” Eller said.

“You want to see a desperate team, you want to see fight. At the same time, we gotta remain composed. But we need the best from everybody. We need a lot more than we got [in Game 4], and I know we can do it.”