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Game 5 Recap: Caps Push Canes to Brink of Elimination

Canes down 3-2 in series after being shut out in Game 5

by Michael Smith @MSmithCanes / CarolinaHurricanes.com

WASHINGTON - The Carolina Hurricanes' backs are up against the wall.

Braden Holtby and the Washington Capitals blanked the Hurricanes by a 6-0 margin in Game 5, and the Canes now face a 3-2 series deficit heading back to Raleigh for Game 6 on Monday. 

Here are five takeaways from Game 5.

1. Capitals Take Momentum Back

"In every aspect of the game, we were outplayed," head coach Rod Brind'Amour said. "We weren't beating anybody tonight."

That about sums up Game 5 for the Hurricanes, who were outmatched in all areas of the ice by the defending Stanley Cup champions.

"They wanted it more," Justin Williams said. "They came up with big plays when they needed to, and we weren't patient enough to stay with it.

"To a man, I think everyone in the room needed a little more fight and aa little more edge to our game," Jordan Staal said. "We didn't have that tonight, and it showed."

It showed, both in the flow of the game and in the lopsided final score. With the home team winning yet another game, the Capitals, now one win away from advancing, have taken back the momentum in this series.

2. First Strike

The home team has won each game in the series, and the team that has scored first has won each game of the series. In fact, the team that has scored first has never trailed in the five games of this series.

"[The first goal] gets the crowd into it and builds momentum for either side," Jaccob Slavin said.

Video: CAR Recap: Hurricanes shut out by Capitals in Game 5

On their second power play of the game, Nicklas Backstrom whacked in his own rebound to give the Caps a 1-0 lead.

That's all the offense they would ultimately need, though they added five additional goals in the second and third periods.

3. Take the Power Back

The Hurricanes had three power-play opportunities in the second period and came up empty on all of them. Their third of the period and fourth of the game was probably the best looking of the bunch, but that was a low bar to clear for a man advantage that struggled to establish much advantage at all.

Zone entries were troublesome, execution was lacking, and the Capitals made the kills look easy.

"The power play was a huge turning point in the game. It sucked, and we weren't good enough," Williams said. "We need to do something positive for the team in those situations."

"The PP was garbage tonight," Staal offered, bluntly.

Shortly after the Hurricanes fired their third straight blank on the power play in the second period, the Caps took advantage of a Canes' turnover in the neutral zone, Alex Ovechkin hit Backstrom in open ice and Backstrom scored his second of the game to double the Caps' lead.

It was a dagger of a goal after repeated opportunities for the Canes to tie the game.

"That, to me, is where the tipping point went, and they just took it from there," Brind'Amour said.

"The power play wasn't good enough tonight," Slavin said. "We had a lot of chances to even up the game and get the momentum going our way, and we didn't do that."

The Caps scored on three of their four power plays, while the Canes couldn't convert any of their five. Such a large special teams discrepancy is nearly impossible to overcome.

"Special teams were terrible," Brind'Amour said. "Our whole game was terrible."

4. Mental Miscues

The Hurricanes were lacking both mentally and physically in Game 5, and a pair of mental miscues in the second period directly led to Capitals' goals.

The first was the aforementioned turnover in the neutral zone. Warren Foegele tossed a backhand pass laterally across the blue line instead of chipping it deep, resulting in an odd-man rush for the Capitals and Backstrom's second goal of the game.

Not even two minutes later, with an icing call waved off, Dougie Hamilton pursued the puck in his own end but slowed up enough, allowing Ovechkin to dart in, grab the puck, pick his head up and spot Brett Connolly in the slot for the goal that made it a 3-0 game.

"We didn't look like we were up for it," Brind'Amour said. "I get it. We've got new guys in the lineup … but we definitely didn't match the level of intensity that needs to be there at this time of year."

The Capitals added a three-spot of goals in the third period: Tom Wilson located a loose puck in the crease and slid it through the sliding defense of Brett Pesce, Nic Dowd scored on an awarded penalty shot and Ovechkin banged one in off a faceoff win on the power play.

"We were bad from start to finish, really," Brind'Amour said. "This time of year, you need everybody on board. For whatever reason, we were all a step behind, and the score is indicative of the game."

5. Welcome to the Show, Kid

There's no bigger stage for your NHL debut than the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Because of injuries to a trio of forwards, the latest being Jordan Martinook falling victim to a lower-body injury, the Canes dipped into the well for another depth forward.

Enter Aleksi Saarela, who became the first player in franchise history to play his first career NHL playoff game before ever appearing in an NHL regular-season game.

Saarela logged a hit in 9:10 of ice time and skated on a line alongside Greg McKegg, who survived an injury scare in the first period after absorbing a high elbow from Wilson, and Patrick Brown, who made his season debut with the Canes in Game 4.

Up Next

Game 6 is back at PNC Arena on Monday.

"It's do or die now," Slavin said.

"The good news is we still have another day and another game to play," Brind'Amour said. "We'll pick the pieces up, try to get better and throw everything we can at them the next game."

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