- The Washington Times - Monday, April 23, 2001

PITTSBURGH Trevor Linden has virtually no Washington Capitals tradition to interfere with his thought processes so perhaps that is why he was a little testy yesterday after practice when a reporter didn't phrase a question quite to the center's liking.

"It's not over yet," he said, cutting off a question. "I've been in these situations before [with Vancouver] and we've won series [against Calgary and Winnipeg]. We've got to win one game, that's all. Go over there, take it one period at a time, just get off to a good start."

The Caps are at Mellon Arena tonight against Pittsburgh for Game 6. Washington trails 3-2 and must win to keep playing. A Caps' victory would force Game 7 tomorrow night at MCI Center, but a loss would give the Penguins their sixth postseason series triumph over the Caps in seven meetings.

There are some statistics that appear to be critical to this series.

• The team that scores first has won every game.

• There has not been a single lead change in five games.

• The Caps have scored just seven goals, six of them on the power play.

• The visiting team has won three out of five games.

• When Pittsburgh holds a 3-2 lead in a series but loses Game 6, it has always lost Game 7.

• Washington is 7-7 overall in Game 6 matches, but just 1-3 against Pittsburgh.

• The Caps have faced elimination in Game 6 six times and won only twice.

There was no dispute yesterday as to why the Caps are down a game. Never mind making life difficult for goalie Johan Hedberg, Washington has failed to even make life as much as uncomfortable for the 27-year-old rookie.

"We can't let him see the puck because we've been making it too easy for him right now," said a frustrated Calle Johansson. "We need people in front."

Said Peter Bondra:

"If you look at our power play, we always have somebody screening and it's tough for any goalie to keep track of the puck when there's bodies in front of him. We have to get traffic in front of the net."

"We've got to make it a little tougher for Hedberg, get in his way, distract him. We have to do a few things differently," Linden said.

"We know what we have to do, we just have to do it," coach Ron Wilson said. "There's obviously pressure on us; if we lose our season's done. They also understand if we win the game, they have to come to Washington."

Wilson made only one roster change yesterday, putting forward Glen Metropolit into the lineup for Dmitri Khristich, who is scoreless and shotless. Wilson said, however, that that was no guarantee Metropolit would play. He may go back to using seven defensemen and use Ken Klee in a dual role. That would also allow him to double shift a player like Bondra who can at least find the net without a AAA tour guide.

"They play good defense," Bondra said, not making excuses but simply stating the most startling fact about this series. Some Caps may have been waiting for the Penguins to slip back to their sloppy defensive habits. However, constant reinforcement from Pittsburgh veterans appear to have convinced the younger Penguins that stats are nice, but defense produces victories.

In one respect the Caps have made life painful for Hedberg, who was tending goal in Manitoba in the International Hockey League a few months ago. Washington players have peppered his belly and chest with shots, the easiest kind to stop. Saturday afternoon, when the Caps weren't shooting into his midsection, they shot wide left with such regularity that it appeared as if the team had practiced missing.

"It's a matter of execution," Wilson said. "You want to shoot in the corners but under pressure sometimes you don't."

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