-- Not looking to change a winning formula, Washington Capitals
coach Dale Hunter
is expected to go with the same lineup in Game 5 against the New York Rangers
that produced Saturday's 3-2 win.
The Eastern Conference Semifinal series is even at two games apiece with Game 5 Monday at Madison Square Garden (7:30 p.m., ET, NBCSN, CBC).
When the series returned to Washington for Game 3 last Wednesday, Hunter had Alex Ovechkin
and Nicklas Backstrom
skate on the same line for the first time this postseason. While Hunter was satisfied with their production, the experiment was short-lived.
In Game 4, Brooks Laich
returned to Hunter's No.1 line alongside Ovechkin and Marcus Johansson
, while Backstrom was back on the second line with Jason Chimera
and Alexander Semin
. The trios are expected to stay the same for Game 5.
"Brooksie and Ovi have been working pretty well together," Hunter explained. "I put Nicky there and they had some good scoring chances, but I thought that Nicky, [Chimera] and Semin, three games ago had a good game so I thought I'd go back to them."
Both lines came through offensively in Game 4 as sustained pressure from Laich and Johansson led to Ovechkin's fourth goal of the playoffs, while Chimera found Backstrom open in the slot in the second period for his second goal of the postseason. Backstrom's tally snapped a personal seven-game goalless drought.
"Playing with [Backstrom], it felt like he was back to his old self, cycling the puck down low and getting some chances," Chimera said. "With any luck, he could have had three or four goals [Saturday]. I think that was his best game since returning [from a 40-game absence March 31]. He needs that. He needs some confidence. That's a game that could spur us on and ultimately help us out, too."
While Backstrom continues to find his game, his countryman Marcus Johansson
remains on the Capitals' No.1 line despite a six-game pointless streak. Johansson is also last among Washington forwards with a minus-five rating in 11 playoff games.
Below are the Capitals lines from Sunday's practice prior to the team's flight to New York.
– Brooks Laich
– Marcus Johansson
– Nicklas Backstrom
– Alexander Semin
– Jay Beagle
– Troy Brouwer
- Keith Aucoin
– Joel Ward
– Jeff Halpern
– Mattias Sjogren
– John Carlson
– Mike Green
– Dennis Wideman
– Dmitry Orlov