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Capitals on the brink of disaster

Orlov kicks puck in own net for costly goal (0:19)
Jake Guentzel sends in a pass across the middle that Capitals defenseman Dmitry Orlov accidentally kicks into his own net as the Capitals would fall 3-2 to the Penguins. (0:19)

PITTSBURGH — This isn’t how it was supposed to go for the Washington Capitals. They lost Game 4 to the Pittsburgh Penguins, this time 3-2. They trail the series 3-1. Really, they’re an overtime goal by the Penguins away from being swept.

All this from a Capitals team that is built just about perfectly and played like it for most of this season.

Now, watching it all unfold, it’s hard not to feel for a group that has done so much well. They once again controlled play when it looked like the Penguins were sitting on the lead. They ended up outshooting the Penguins 38-18. They controlled 65 percent of the even-strength shot attempts. And still lost.

It’s all too familiar. If the Capitals played like this against the Penguins over the course of an 82-game season, they’d do pretty darn well.

But that’s the problem — there are only seven games in this series. There might be only one game left.

The Capitals got a really bad break in the second period, when Jake Guentzel‘s centering pass ricocheted in off Dmitry Orlov for an own goal that put the Penguins up 2-0. That play could soon be added to the long list of bad Capitals memories from the playoff history between these two teams.

Give these Penguins credit. They are like a prizefighter who won’t go down but are most definitely staggering. Matt Murray, Kris Letang and Sidney Crosby are all out. Carl Hagelin doesn’t look like himself. Patric Hornqvist blocked another shot and barely made it off the ice. He’s not going to be able to walk before this series is over.

It’s so hard to repeat as the Stanley Cup champion, because you need to get a lot of breaks health-wise in two consecutive postseasons. The Penguins aren’t getting them, and they’re still one win away from advancing to the Eastern Conference finals.

The Capitals are either wearing them down to a limp for the next opponent, or they’re preparing to stage a memorable surge in the final three games of this series. The history between these two franchises certainly points in one direction.

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