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Capitals ease past Islanders, take 3-2 series lead

by Katie Brown /

WASHINGTON – The Washington Capitals haven’t held a lead for much of their Eastern Conference First Round series against the New York Islanders. They made up for it Thursday.

Evgeny Kuznetsov scored twice to help the Capitals defeat the Islanders 5-1 in Game 5 at Verizon Center.

Washington leads the best-of-7 series 3-2 and can advance to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs with a win in Game 6 (3 p.m. ET; NBC, TVA Sports, SN) on Saturday at Nassau Coliseum.

"It’s going to be a tough game," Capitals forward Brooks Laich said of Game 6. "We’re going to have to play better than we did today. Their building’s been incredible for them; they play very well on home ice."

The Capitals trailed for only 3:17, led 2-1 after the second period and scored three goals in nine minutes in the third.

"It is good to see when all four lines are going," Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin said. "You can see all we play in the neutral zone and defensive zone. We gave them one chance in the first and they scored a goal, but other than that I think we play well. They’re a good team and we have to stick to the plan."

Braden Holtby made 22 saves for Washington. Laich, Jason Chimera and defenseman Karl Alzner also scored for the Capitals.

"I thought we played well tonight," Holtby said. "We had some things we wanted to do before the game, we executed well. We kept pushing, we were relentless and you could tell everyone on our team was fighting for the same goal."

Washington was perfect on the penalty kill, holding the Islanders scoreless on both power plays. The Islanders have not scored a power-play goal on 12 attempts in the series.

"It started on the [penalty] kill," Islanders forward Anders Lee said. "[We] took a couple penalties, the momentum swings, it put us behind a little bit and they [Washington] were able to capitalize and we weren’t able to come back."

The Capitals know the Islanders will be tough to defeat in their own building, especially in an elimination game.

"It’s up to us to come out with energy and if we can do that and advance pucks and play down in their end, we’ll be OK," Alzner said. "I know the coaching staff’s going to do everything to try and look at whatever little details….they’re going to prepare us for that."

New York goalie Jaroslav Halak allowed five goals on 35 shots before being pulled for backup Michal Neuvirth. Josh Bailey scored the Islanders’ only goal.

"We were right there in the game, it’s their building," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. "Great crowd, great atmosphere to play in and you cough up the puck. That’s the part of this game that teams can thrive off and feed off. They came back in transition on a couple of those goals, and that was it."

Bailey scored at 5:48 of the first period. His shot went through traffic and past Holtby to give the Islanders a 1-0 lead, the fourth time in five games that the Islanders scored first.

The Capitals got the secondary scoring they were looking for at 9:05 of the first when Kuznetsov tied the game 1-1. Kuznetsov won the offensive-zone faceoff, skated behind the net and batted Marcus Johansson’s shot out of midair to score his first career NHL playoff goal.

Alzner scored his second goal of the playoffs at 10:31 of the second period to make it 2-1. Jay Beagle had the first shot on Halak, who gave up a rebound that Capitals forward Troy Brouwer took behind the net and passed to Alzner for the one-timer.

Alzner, who is typically known as a stay-at-home defenseman, has three points in five playoff games, a career high. He chalks it up to good timing.

"I had a bad game the first game of the series and I really wanted to do something the second game, so I was trying to look forward a little more and that builds your confidence," Alzner said. "And this one was, I guess, just making a good read"

Washington outshot New York 18-8 in the second period.

Laich made it 3-1 at 2:42 of the third period, his first goal of the 2015 playoffs. Beagle corralled the puck and passed to Laich, who scored from the slot.

Kuznetsov gave the Capitals a 4-1 lead with his second goal of the game at 6:19 of the third.

Chimera scored on a wrist shot at 9:00 to make it 5-1.

Islanders forward Mikhail Grabovski played in his first game of the series after he was activated from injured reserve Thursday.

New York defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky did not play after leaving Game 4 with an upper-body injury.

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