Through the first four games of their second-round Stanley Cup playoff series against the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Capitals had to work extremely hard to produce meager offensive results. Washington teed up 306 shot attempts to 179 for the Penguins, and it outshot Pittsburgh by 142-93 in the first four games.
All of Washington's possession and all of its time in the attack zone produced exactly two goals in the first 60 minutes of each of the first four games (plus Kevin Shattenkirk's overtime winner in Game 3), while Pittsburgh was able to pile up 14 goals in much less arduous fashion over the same time span.
Forty minutes into Saturday's Game 5, it looked like more of the same. The Caps owned a 40-21 lead in shot attempts and were up 18-10 in shots on goal, but trailed the Penguins 2-1 on the scoreboard, the only measurement that matters. Washington's season was down to its last 20 minutes.
Early in the third, the Caps erupted in a timely display of offensive prowess that saved their season, at least for a couple more nights. Washington scored three goals in less than five minutes, and it rode that scoring largesse to a 4-2 win over the Pens in Game 5, narrowing Pittsburgh's lead in the series to 3-2.
The Penguins had won 94 of their previous 98 games when owning a lead going into the third period.
Video: PIT@WSH, Gm5: Backstrom beats Fleury from circle
Rather than just pouring shots toward the Pittsburgh net in volumes on Saturday as it had done through the first four games of the series, Washington exercised patience and was more judicious in its shot selections.
The results were positive.
"It was a similar situation to Game 1 about a week ago," says Caps center Lars Eller, "and I think we learned our lesson from that game. That game, we came out and probably tried to do a little too much, chasing from behind. Everybody was a little too eager.
"Today, we just stayed patient. We played on our toes still, but we stayed patient and didn't try to do too much, and we got rewarded. It felt good. Today was probably our best 60 minutes of the series."
Video: PIT@WSH, Gm5: Ovechkin strikes on second effort
Caps coach Barry Trotz made a significant adjustment to his forward lines between Games 4 and 5, sliding Andre Burakovsky up to a unit with Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie and installing Alex Ovechkin on the left side of a trio with Eller and Tom Wilson.
The payoff was instant, as Burakovsky scored Washington's first goal of the game - and his first of the playoffs - in the final minute of the first. By night's end, the Caps had even-strength goals from each of their top three forward lines.
"Yeah, judging by the score it did," responds Eller, when asked if the line changes paid off. "It's not like we played that bad in the other games, but sometimes you do it to create a spark or to create something. I think we got that out of it today. We got goals from both lines that switched wingers, so I think it was a success today."
Video: Caps players talk after a 4-2 win in Game 5
Fives Are Wild - In a span of less than five minutes during the first half of the third period, the Caps got goals from Backstrom, Evgeny Kuznetsov, and Ovechkin. For each of those three players, the goal in Saturday's game was his fifth in 11 games of the playoffs to date.
Kuznetsov has scored four goals in the five games in this series, and he now has a career high of eight points (five goals, three assists) in the 2017 Stanley Cup playoffs.
Video: PIT@WSH, Gm5: Kuznetsov scores from a sharp angle
Take It From the Bottom - Burakovsky's goal came with 29.7 seconds left in the first period, tying the game at 1-1 at that point. Whether you want to consider Burakovsky's first-period goal or Ovechkin's third-period marker as the bottom six goal for Washington in this game is up to you, but either way, it was the first bottom six goal for the Caps in the playoffs since Wilson scored twice in Game 4 of Washington's first-round series with Toronto.
Burakovsky becomes the first Washington forward aside from Backstrom, Kuznetsov and Ovechkin to find the back of the net in this series.
Video: PIT@WSH, Gm5: Burakovsky toe drags, buries wrister
Quick Strikes - Kuznetsov's game-winning goal came at 7:20 of the third period, and Ovechkin followed with an insurance marker just 27 seconds later, at 7:47. Those are the fastest two goals Washington has scored in a playoff game in more than a quarter of a century.
The last time the Caps struck for two goals that quickly in the postseason was also against the Penguins, on April 25, 1992. In a 7-2 Washington win that night, Dino Ciccarelli (6:17) and Peter Bondra (6:34) scored just 17 seconds apart in the third period.
Video: PIT@WSH: Gm5: Caps score two goals in 27 seconds
Captain Comeback - Pens captain Sidney Crosby missed Game 4 of the series after sustaining a concussion in Game 3, and Pens winger Conor Sheary suffered the same fate in the same game. Both players recovered quickly and were back in the lineup for Saturday's game after missing just the one contest in between.
"I felt good," says Crosby. "There were some chances there we just missed. Some nights you just don't execute as well. I think there were some chances to be had there a few times, and we just didn't execute."
Crosby had an assist on Phil Kessel's power-play goal, and he was credited with three shots on net and eight attempts in 19:10 minutes of work on Saturday. Sheary skated 14:03 and had one shot on net.
Video: Penguins head coach Sullivan on #CapsPens Game 5
Down On The Farm - The AHL Hershey Bears opened their second-round Calder Cup playoff series with the Providence Bruins at Giant Center on Saturday night, but things didn't go well for the home team. Hershey dropped the series opener by a 3-1 count, and the two teams will get together again on Sunday in the same location for Game 2.
Providence scored all three of its goals in the span of less than five minutes in the back half of the first period. After Austin Czarnik staked the Bruins to a 1-0 lead at 10:08 of the first, the Bears surrendered a pair of shorthanded goals in a span of just 56 seconds on the same Hershey power play, a sequence that ultimately doomed them to defeat.
Nathan Walker scored the lone Bears goal with an extra attacker on the ice at 17:34 of the third, getting help from Christian Djoos and Chris Bourque. Pheonix Copley made 19 saves in the Hershey nets in a losing effort.
Down a level, the ECHL South Carolina Stingrays ousted the Florida Everblades in a five-game, second-round series, finishing off the Blades with a 2-1 win on Thursday night. The Stingrays now advance to the ECHL's Eastern Conference final series to face the Manchester Monarchs.
South Carolina will host the first three games of the series at North Charleston Coliseum this Friday, Saturday and Monday. The remainder of the series will be played in Manchester on the following Friday, Saturday and Monday (if necessary) and a Game 7 would take place there on Wed. May 24, if needed.
Video: Coach Trotz on the 4-2 win in #CapsPens Game 5
By The Numbers - Matt Niskanen led Washington with 21:13 in ice time … Ovechkin and Burakovsky led the Capitals with four shots on net each, and Ovechkin led the way with eight shot attempts … T.J. Oshie led the Caps with seven hits … Dmitry Orlov led Washington with three blocked shots.