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After long Game 3, Rangers, Caps head to Game 4

Associated Press Modified: May 4, 2012 at 5:03 pm •  Published: May 4, 2012

WASHINGTON (AP) — Hard to blame Capitals forward Brooks Laich — or anyone who played in Washington's three-overtime loss to the New York Rangers — for wanting to catch up on sleep.

While dozing, Laich wound up having quite a nightmare.

"I woke up, and for some reason, I thought the season was over. I had a deep sleep — I had a long deep sleep — and I thought the season was over," Laich recounted Friday. "And then it refreshed in my mind that we only lost one hockey game, that it's 2-1. We're still in a good position."

Yes, Brooks, a team needs to win four games to end a series, so there's more hockey to be played between the Capitals and Rangers, starting with Game 4 at Washington on Saturday. Top-seeded New York holds that 2-1 lead Laich reminded himself about, thanks to a 2-1 victory in Wednesday's extra-long contest.

"Your morale is certainly a notch up after winning a game of that length, rather than losing," Rangers center John Mitchell said. "That is important for our team."

Rangers coach John Tortorella used fewer players for more minutes apiece than Washington coach Dale Hunter, who spread ice time out more evenly among a larger group in Game 3.

Tortorella bristled Friday at a question about his team rebounding physically from the fatigue, saying: "We're not tired. ... This isn't a tired team. Like I said yesterday, we have no chance if we ..." He cut himself off there, then added: "I'll just leave it at that. We're fine."

The Capitals, meanwhile, are hoping to continue a pattern: They haven't lost two consecutive games in more than a month.

That consistency allowed Washington to make a late-season push to qualify for the playoffs as the No. 7-seeded team in the East. It also let the Capitals come back to eliminate the reigning Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins in the first round after trailing that series 2-1.

"We're mentally tougher. We've talked a lot about the adversity we've gone through throughout the course of the season. When things are getting tough on us as a group, we stick to our systems well," forward Matt Hendricks said. "We don't deviate away from them, the way we used to, where we'd get down a goal or two and we'd get 'individual.' We'd try to do things on our own. (Now) we're relying on our system, on our teammates, and it's benefiting us."

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