Tonight's Game 3 of the Washington Capitals-Pittsburgh Penguins playoff series could be the biggest, Capitals coach Terry Murray said.
The Capitals won twice at home, 3-1 and 6-2, to put the defending Stanley Cup champions in an early hole. The next two games are at the Pittsburgh Civic Arena.
"This will be a huge game," Murray said yesterday before leaving for Pittsburgh. "We did what we wanted to do at home and now we have to go up there and play with the same intensity and aggressiveness that we did in the first two games."
The Capitals got some bad news yesterday when they learned that left wing Randy Burridge, who was skating on the most productive line, with Peter Bondra (three goals, two assists) and Michal Pivonka (1, 3), will be out for at least two games. Burridge hyper-extended his left knee, the same one he injured March 1, keeping him out for the remainder of the regular season, in the first period of Tuesday's game. He will remain at home to have therapy in hopes of returning for Game 5, if necessary.
"I'll probably move John Druce back on the line with Bondra and Pivonka," Murray said. "He played there when Burridge was out before and he did a good job. Now I have to decide who to use in Druce's spot on the fourth line. I have Nick Kypreos, Tim Bergland and Todd Krygier available."
Goalie Don Beaupre has been superb in the first two games, facing 68 shots and making 65 saves. Two of the three goals he allowed came on power plays.
Murray said the 30-year-old goalie is at the "top of his game."
"You can just sense it. He's reached his maturity in this league," Murray said. "He has been around a long time, since he was 18 years, and he is very tough mentally. He doesn't let things get to him."
Although Beaupre said he's playing "pretty sharp," he said there's room for improvement. "I don't feel that I'm in the groove and I don't think I'm playing any better now than I did in the regular season," he said. "I'd still like to calm down inside and get that confidence you feel when you are at the top of your game."
Mario Lemieux, who missed the first game of the Patrick Division semifinal series with a bruised shoulder but returned in Game 2 to assist on both Pittsburgh goals, said tonight's game is almost a must-win situation for the Penguins.
"We have to go home and we have to win Game 3," Lemieux said. "We have to regroup, win the first game on our ice and then win the second and make sure we return to Washington [Monday]. This series is far from over."
Kevin Stevens, who has scored one of Pittsburgh's goals, agreed with Lemieux. "I'm still confident we can come back and win this series. Washington's a very good hockey team, but we know we can beat them."
The Capitals have blistered Pittsburgh goalie Tom Barrasso with 62 shots in two games, scoring nine goals.
"We have to stop turning over the puck and we have to get back on defense quicker if we are going to beat Washington," said Barrasso. "We played well at home last year in the playoffs. We beat Boston four in a row after being down 2-0 in that series. They were certainly more trying circumstances than now. We have to concentrate and not allow odd-man rushes. Washington has a lot of skilled players and we have to try and wear them down."
The Capitals' Kelly Miller said: "The key for us is to continue to play the way we've been playing. We don't want to change our style now. Hopefully, we'll continue to play with the same intensity and keep skating the way we have been."