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5 Keys: Capitals at Penguins, Game 6

Play of Washington's Ovechkin, Pittsburgh's Murray looms large

by Tom Gulitti @tomgulittinhl / NHL.com Staff Writer

PITTSBURGH - The Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins play Game 6 of their Eastern Conference Second Round series at Consol Energy Center on Tuesday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVA Sports). The Penguins lead the best-of-7 series 3-2.

Here are 5 keys for Game 6:

1. START FAST

Facing a 3-1 series deficit and elimination in Game 5 on Saturday, the Capitals came out strong, drew an early power play and scored on it to set the tone on their way to a 3-1 victory. In their second attempt to close out the series, the Penguins want to jump on the Capitals early in Game 6 and extinguish any momentum they gained Saturday,

Conversely, a good start by the Capitals could get the Penguins worrying about a potential Game 7 on Thursday back at Verizon Center.

"If you watched Game 5, they got a good start and kind of got the foot out the door pretty quick," Penguins forward Eric Fehr said. "That's going to be important for us to respond and try to get the crowd into it early and have some good energy in the building."

2. LAST CHANGE

Penguins coach Mike Sullivan was able to take advantage of the having last line change on home ice in Game 4 and got Sidney Crosby (two assists in the series) away from the matchup with Nicklas Backstrom for some shifts. That paid off with the most active game of the series for Crosby's line with Conor Sheary and Patric Hornqvist, which contributed to two goals, including Hornqvist's winner, in a 3-2 overtime victory.

After Sullivan didn't have that option in a 3-1 road loss in Game 5, watch for him to try to take advantage of it in Game 6 and get Crosby on the ice against the Capitals' revamped top line of Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov and T.J. Oshie.

Video: PIT@WSH, Gm5: Oshie buries home rebound for PPG

"When we're at our best as a team, we've got a four-line rotation," Sullivan said. "We think that's one of our strengths,'' Sullivan said. "So, do we look for matchups that are advantageous? Sure, we do. And we'll continue to do that. We have a little bit more control at home than we do on the road."

3. ALEX OVECHKIN

As much as the Capitals need other players to step up and produce, particularly at even strength (paging Kuztnetsov), how Ovechkin goes, they usually follow. They won Game 5 with Ovechkin dominating, controlling the puck, scoring a power-play goal and assisting on Oshie's game-winner.

If the Penguins can keep Ovechkin quiet, that enhances their chances of advancing to the Eastern Conference Final for the first time since 2013.

"This team plays well when we have some pressure," Ovechkin said. "Last game, we showed we have character and we showed we support each other and trust each other. The last game is over and [Tuesday] is going to be the biggest game of the year. I think we're ready."

4. PENALTY KILL ADJUSTMENTS

The power plays came to life in Game 5. The Capitals went 2-for-5 with the man-advantage after going 1-for-12 in the first four games and the Penguins went 1-for-2 after going 0-for-14 in the first four games.

Both teams moved the puck well and created numerous chances. Was this a one-game aberration, or did they finally solve the penalty kills?

"You go through a long series and you give a team enough opportunities on the power play, and they're bound to score one here or there," Penguins center Matt Cullen said. "For us, it's about eliminating and reducing their opportunities, and then we've got to execute a little bit better. We didn't do a great job on faceoffs and we didn't do a great job taking away time and space, and that hurt us."

Video: WSH@PIT, Gm4: Cullen goes five-hole to give Pens lead

5. MATT MURRAY

Sullivan showed confidence in the 21-year-old rookie goaltender by sticking with him, though veteran Marc-Andre Fleury is healthy now. Murray was stellar in making 47 saves in a 3-2 win in Game 3, but the Capitals have scored a couple of questionable goals in the past two games and Murray left some rebounds in front, including one Oshie converted into the game-winner Saturday.

With Capitals goalie Braden Holtby raising his game with a 30-save performance Game 5, it's Murray's turn to respond.

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