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PITTSBURGH (AP) The Washington Capitals don’t need a history lesson. Neither do the Winnipeg Jets for that matter.The Capitals are well aware of their penchant for letting opportunity after opportunity slip away Womens Jared McCann Jersey , frequently at the hands of Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins.And just in case Alex Ovechkin and his teammates ever forget about their playoff missteps, they need only step in front of a camera or a microphone, where the same questions are posed year after year.There’s only one way to hop off the hamster wheel: close out the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins this week – preferably at the end of Game 6 Monday night (7 p.m., NBCSN) in Pittsburgh – to earn the franchise’s first trip to the Eastern Conference finals in 20 years.”I don’t know if I could tell you exactly what it would mean,” Washington forward T.J. Oshie said.”None of us have ever been there. We’re just looking to get the job done and maybe after we can talk about the feelings. But right now we still got a lot of work to do.”Work that in the past has proven to be too much. Four previous times during the Ovechkin Era – including in 2009 and 2017 against Pittsburgh – the Capitals have won three games in the second round of the playoffs. It’s that fourth one that’s proven elusive.No pressure or anything. All Washington has to do to produce a cathartic breakthrough is hand the Penguins their first series loss in 37 months.Pittsburgh has never lost an elimination game under head coach Mike Sullivan, capturing a pair of Game 7s – including a 2-0 shutout in Washington in the second round – during its run to a second straight Cup last spring and rallying from a 3-2 deficit against Tampa Bay in the Eastern Conference finals two years ago.”They know what it takes to win,” Sullivan said. ”They’re not afraid of challenges and they embrace these types of situations.”To become the first team in 35 years to earn three consecutive titles, the Penguins don’t really have a choice.They were the better team for long stretches in Game 5 only to have the Capitals surge past them in the third period for a 6-3 win – the second time in three games Pittsburgh lost in regulation when leading after two, something it didn’t do at all in the regular season.No matter. Recovering quickly and moving forward has kind of been their thing under Sullivan. The Penguins are 17-5 following a playoff loss with Sullivan on the bench.Pushing that number to 18-5 would send the series back to Washington and force the Capitals try to explain – again – how this time will be different.”We knew it was going to be a tight series,” Crosby said. ”We need to make sure we leave it all out there, give ourselves a chance to get back (to Washington).”At least the Capitals put themselves in position for playoff heartbreak. That’s hardly the case with the Jets, who until a month ago had won exactly zero postseason games in their 18 years of existence and now find themselves one victory away from the Western Conference finals.Winnipeg has never been this far. Ever. The Jets put themselves in position when they stunned Nashville by scoring four goals in the second period against Vezina Trophy finalist Pekka Rinne during a 6-2 romp in ”Smashville” in Game 5, sending them home for Game 6 (9:30 p.m., NBCSN) with a chance to wrap up the series.Not that the Jets want to talk about it.”That’s noise. It’s kind of a distraction,” Winnipeg captain Blake Wheeler said.”What we’re focused on is what’s given us success all year long Jonathan Huberdeau Jersey , and that’s just finding a way to win one hockey game. If we’re able to do that, then when it’s all said and done you’re reflecting on the season and you’ll think about what you were able to accomplish and the magnitude of the situation. But we can’t make it bigger than a game.”The Predators, unlike the Jets, have been here before. They faced elimination in the first round against Anaheim in 2016 but came back to advance, triumphing in the crucible of Game 7 for the first time in franchise history in the process.”It’s pretty simple, we win we keep playing,” Nashville forward Filip Forsberg said. ”If we don’t, we don’t play anymore. Obviously that desperation level is going to be a determining factor for sure.”It’s a feeling long familiar in Washington. The Capitals received a dose of good news on Sunday when coach Barry Trotz said center Nicklas Backstrom will travel with the team after leaving in the third period of Game 5 with an upper-body injury.Whoever is on the ice will be forced to shoulder the weight of playoff failures, one Trotz is confident his team is finally ready to shrug off for good.”I can tell you there’s not a player, a coach, a trainer, ownership, (general manager) who is not trying to do everything they can to win this series,” Trotz said. ”Trust me. We’re trying as hard as we can and at the end of the day that’s all we can promise.”—AP Sports Writer Teresa Walker in Nashville, Tennessee Keith Yandle Jersey , and AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno in Washington, D.C., contributed to this report.— Victor Hedman refused to go to sleep without a contract.A full year before he could become a free agent, the hulking No. 1 defenseman told his agent he wanted to sign a long-term extension with the Tampa Bay Lightning the first day he could. Hedman put pen to paper on an eight-year contract well before the sun went down.”It was never a doubt,” Hedman said that day. ”Staying in Tampa was the No. 1 priority.”Patrice Bergeron felt the same way when he signed his second, third and fourth contract with the Boston Bruins. Like Hedman, Bergeron wanted to stay with the organization that drafted and developed him for as long as possible while taking less money to surround himself with enough talent to win.Now each player is on the road to joining an exclusive and growing club of players who reach 1,000 games with one team. Over the past week, Chicago’s Brent Seabrook and Washington’s Alex Ovechkin became the 49th and 50th players in NHL history to play their first 1,000 regular-season games with the same organization, and that group will welcome many members in the next several years as franchise building blocks lock in to long-term deals.”You’re going to see it more often now,” Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik said. ”Just the way the CBA is and the way the bigger names probably don’t move around as much as they did in earlier years.”Next season alone, longtime Seabrook defensive partner Duncan Keith and Bergeron are expected to join the one for 1,000 group, with Minnesota captain Mikko Koivu and Los Angeles captain Anze Kopitar in reach of the milestone before the end of 2018-19 if they stay healthy. San Jose’s Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Joe Pavelski Authentic Nick Bjugstad Jersey , Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin and Chicago’s Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews aren’t far behind as this era of long-term stability produces a parade of silver-stick ceremonies for one-team foundation pieces.”If you’re playing 1,000 games in one organization, you have to be a certain level of player,” said agent Kent Hughes, who represents Bergeron. ”It’s really significant because you’re talking about a series of contracts and we’re in a cap world and in order for that to happen in a lot of cases, I think there needs to be a little bit of give and take on both sides.”In Ovechkin’s case, it was a $124 million, 13-year contract signed in early 2008 that then-NBA commissioner David Stern told Capitals owner Ted Leonsis he’d live to regret. The only regret now for Leonsis is not signing his face of the franchise for 15 years, and Ovechkin said if he could turn back time, he’d sign for 16 years.Ovechkin is an anomaly in today’s NHL, where contract lengths were capped at eight years in the last round of collective bargaining talks. Since that CBA went into effect in January 2013, 33 different players have signed eight-year contracts – 28 of whom re-upped with his original team.”It means a lot to any player to get off their career and say, `Well, look at this, I played 1 Vincent Trocheck Jersey ,050 games with one team – my whole career, I’m one of the few,”’ said agent Peter Wallen, who counts one-team players Hedman, St. Louis forward Patrik Berglund and Colorado captain Gabriel Landeskog among his clients. ”The only reason you will stay there for 1,000 games is that’s because you’re in the playoffs every year, you know your GM is giving you the opportunity to go deep in the playoffs and they want to win the Stanley Cup.”The other most-recent players to reach 1,000 games with one team – Los Angeles’ Dustin Brown, Detroit’s Henrik Zetterberg and New Jersey’s Patrik Elias – all lifted the Stanley Cup, while Daniel and Henrik Sedin went to the 2011 final and were part of a perennial contender in Vancouver. It’s a delicate balance for teams between paying stars their value and maintaining roster flexibility to contend for several years.”It’s difficult because you can’t let that key player go while he’s in the prime and you have to keep him content,” Hughes said. ”If the player doesn’t work with you, then it becomes more and more of a challenge to find a way to remain competitive.”Yet the one-team, 1,000-game players should keep piling up with the likes of the Flyers’ Claude Giroux, Devils’ Travis Zajac Adrian Kempe Jersey , Bruins’ David Krejci, Kings’ Drew Doughty and possibly the Islanders’ John Tavares – if he re-signs this summer – on pace to hit the mark. Nicklas Backstrom and Evgeny Kuznetsov could follow Ovechkin as the only players to get to 1,000 with the Capitals after none did it in the first 40-plus years of the franchise’s history.”Organizations want to build a core group maybe, and that’s maybe why it’s so common these days that more guys stick with one team,” Backstrom said. ”For me, personally, I like that, and obviously not move around. But sometimes you can’t control it, either. I feel like we’ve been fortunate here that we’ve been here a long time, so I’m happy about that.”—
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