ARLINGTON, Va.-- The Washington Capitals must have their star players be their best players again if they want their season to continue when they play Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Second Round against the Pittsburgh Penguins at PPG Paints Arena on Monday (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVA Sports).
The Penguins lead the best-of-7 series 3-2 and Capitals coach Barry Trotz knows his leaders have to make a difference. Washington trailed 2-1 after two periods in Game 5 before goals by forwards Nicklas Backstrom, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Alex Ovechkin gave it a 4-2 victory to avoid elimination.
"[Saturday] night we had all of our leaders stepping up as a group, and not just one or two but the whole group stepping forward and it brought everybody behind them with them," Trotz said Sunday. "There's no room for anybody not to be at their best and all it's going to take is all we have, and all we have is our leadership, the 20 players who dress, and they're going to have to be all in."
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Ovechkin criticized himself for his performance in Game 4, a 3-2 loss to the Penguins, who were missing center Sidney Crosby because of a concussion. Ovechkin's line with Backstrom and T.J. Oshie did little but that wasn't the case in Game 5.
"Whenever you have your back against the wall, you look for your leaders to make a moment, make a difference," Trotz said. [Backstrom] made a difference. [Ovechkin] made a difference. [Kuznetsov] made a difference, and especially [goaltender Braden] Holtby in the third period -- he really made a difference."
Holtby, who has struggled for most of the series, made a couple of key saves to keep the Penguins from extending their 2-1 lead before the offense got untracked.
"I put a lot of pressure on our difference-makers to make a difference," Trotz said. "They did [Saturday] night.
"What you saw is that when our difference-makers started to make a difference, the people behind them started to follow. That's when your leaders bring the group with them. I thought [Saturday] night, really for the first time in the series, that sort of happened."