Alex Ovechkin says the Capitals have come too far this season to have it end.
You dont want your season to be ended tonight, Ovechkin said Wednesday in a quietly confident locker room at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. I think its going to be do or die. Everybody knows. Everybody understands. We just cant go home right now.
The Capitals and New York Rangers are two of just five teams remaining in the chase for the Stanley Cup. The Kings, Coyotes and Devils already have clinched berths in the conference finals.
The Capitals have not lost consecutive games since March 22 and 23 against the Flyers and Jets and are 5-0 in the playoffs following losses, including a 2-1 overtime victory in Game 7 against the Bruins in Boston.
Theyre warriors, Capitals coach Dale Hunter said. They know what it takes to win and theyll work hard out there and battle.
I dont think we deserve to end the season right now, Ovechkin said. Everybody knows were a good hockey club. We beat the Stanley Cup champions in a seventh game in Boston. We have that kind of confidence. Right now I dont think anybody thinks, Geez its going to be over.
The Capitals are 6-1 in the playoffs when scoring first. The Rangers are 6-2 when they score first. Tonight likely will be two teams going all out in the first 10 minutes to produce that first goal.
We need to come out hungry, said Matt Hendricks, who scored the opening goal in Game 7 in Boston. We need to come out and try to strike first and thats our goal.
Unlike Monday morning in New York, when players were joking on the ice and in the dressing room following their morning skate, the mood at Kettler on Wednesday was more businesslike.
It's more serious today, Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner said. We realize how important this is and we're making sure everybodys on. It's a do-or-die game for us, so we're all pretty intense. Obviously, we want to do and not die, so we're ready for it.
Ovechkin who was held without a shot in Game 5 for just the second time in his playoff career, was asked if hell need to lead the charge tonight with his team facing elimination. He immediately ran off teammates names as if they were reindeer on his sleigh.
Me, Backy, Sasha, Greener, Laich, Chimmer, Ovechkin said. Everybody has to be 100 percent ready and everybody has to give 100 percent or were done.
To be sure, Nicklas Backstrom, Alex Semin, Mike Green, Brooks Laich and Jason Chimera will need to play their best hockey tonight. But the Capitals will need their highest-paid player to rebound from his Game 5 performance.
I just didnt get an opportunity to take a shot, Ovechkin said. Or if I got the opportunity they blocked it. For me the most important thing is I just need one chance to get the puck and put it in the net.
Hunter, who has played in 186 career playoff games, said hell need Ovechkin and the rest of his players to embrace the pressures of playing with their season on the line.
Youll see him work out there, Hunter said. Hell finish hits and go to the net hard. We know whats at stake. Theres nothing better than being under pressure Thats the best part of it.