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All a part of the learning process.

“Even if you lose a tough game, there’s still some positives out of it that you can take,” Brouwer said. “We feel like, the Pittsburgh game, we just played so well, and you’re going to lose some games that you deserve to win. It didn’t get us down, and we just went on playing well and getting wins.”

Oates was worried about a letdown going into back-to-back games at the Winnipeg Jets. Instead, goaltender Braden Holtby noticed a different atmosphere in the locker room.

“It was just like all of a sudden everyone decided to focus in,” Holtby said. “Usually I get about half-dressed and I sit there and listen to the room and usually it’s jokes or people talking about stuff other than the game. But that game it was very quiet and the only things you heard were what we were doing that night to make sure that we won.”

Reeling off back-to-back victories at the Jets was the start of the Caps’ climb to first place in the Southeast Division. In explaining what changed, it all began with the Pittsburgh loss.

“It’s just maybe the realization of what’s going on and what’s at stake and the possibilities of not being in the playoffs that, I think, maybe helped us snap out of things a little bit,” defenseman Karl Alzner said. “It was just one of those times where guys started feeling like we need to pick this up now or pack it in right now.”

Seven points out of a playoff spot and nine back of first place on the morning of March 20, it would have been much easier to pack it in and prepare for the 2013-14 season. Instead, the Caps turned one big loss into a series of wins.

“That was a character game for us,” Oleksy said. “Usually you say a character win, but although we didn’t get the result we wanted, we did a lot of things right within the system and on the ice. So I think that was a character game for our team and kind of when we turned the corner.”