- The Washington Times - Friday, May 1, 2015

NEW YORK — With Madison Square Garden hosting a concert on Friday night, the Washington Capitals were forced to cobble together a rather unique arrangement for their afternoon practice. They would dress at the arena, travel 12 blocks by bus to Chelsea Piers, take to the ice and then head back.

The emotion of Thursday night’s 2-1 victory over the New York Rangers, in which Joel Ward scored in the final two seconds, scuttled those plans. Recognizing his players’ need to come down from the exhilaration of such an affair, Trotz instead kept them off the ice entirely, instead giving them much of the afternoon off before reconvening for a team dinner and meetings later in the day.

“I thought we looked like we were still weary from last series, the quick turnaround and the amount of effort and emotion you put into that series,” Trotz said Friday, speaking in a ballroom at the team’s Manhattan hotel. “I really thought about dragging guys to the rink for a half-hour, 15 minutes, whatever it would be today, and really what we’d gain out of it wouldn’t be a whole heck of a lot. We took this approach where we did a little workout here at the hotel and we’re going to go over some from last night later today, let guys get their energy back from the quick turnaround.

“We’ve gone every second day for the last 16 days and some very emotional highs and lows, and putting a lot of work in between, winning a series and getting prepared to play the Rangers on a quick turnaround here.”

That quick turnaround has been a thorn in the Capitals’ side all year, with the team losing five of the seven regular-season contests beginning at or before 1 p.m. Those issues returned in Game 3 of Washington’s first-round series against the New York Islanders, a 12:30 p.m. start, when Trotz held a practice the day before and then urged his players to spend additional time warming up prior to the game.

Thus, having not yet solved the timing issue, Trotz went the other direction altogether. The hustle of shuttling between locations on Friday afternoon would certainly do no favors for his weary players, and his hope is that if they can rest and regroup for Game 2, they’ll be better off for it.

“I think any time you can get a day off in the playoffs is important,” Alzner said. “You don’t really practice a whole lot besides your pregame skates, so you really pay attention, close attention, to your video sessions and get what you need in pregame skate and go from there. We’ve played seven games, so we could use the rest.”

Thursday’s game ended in a stunner, with a final 15 seconds that featured a pair of turnovers, a hard hit by center Nicklas Backstrom on Rangers defenseman Dan Boyle, an advantageous pass by Alex Ovechkin and the winner by Ward that stunned the home crowd.

The Rangers had not lost the opener of a series in which they held home-ice advantage since 1996, though only five of those 21 series began at home. Players then spoke of the understanding that the Rangers, who did hold a practice at their full-time facility, would surely be amped up for Game 2.

The rest, then, they believe, is crucial.

“At this point in the year, I mean, you’re not getting all that much out of practice, really,” defenseman Brooks Orpik said. “It’s just about adjustments you can make on video and making sure your bodies are healthy, so I think it was a good move for us.”

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