Things were looking bleak for the Washington Capitals in early February.
Playing a new system under a rookie head coach, with a shortened training camp and zero exhibition games thanks to the lockout, Alex Ovechkin and Co. won only two of their first 11 games. Somehow, Washington wound up atop the Southeast Division and hosts the New York Rangers on Thursday night to begin an Eastern Conference playoff series.
''When you have a tough start like that, sometimes you need a meeting to talk about it and let everybody speak up,'' Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom said. ''That's what I think was the turning point.''
With the team last in the entire NHL and coming off a listless 5-2 loss at the Pittsburgh Penguins - ''a letdown game,'' as forward Joel Ward put it - Washington's players went to their practice facility atop a shopping mall Feb. 8 and, before heading out to the ice, gathered in the locker room to hash things out, no coaches allowed.
''We played terrible. Didn't have any e...