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5 Keys: Penguins at Capitals, Game 5

Urgency on both sides, making most of matchups looming large

by Tom Gulitti @tomgulittinhl / Staff Writer

WASHINGTON -- The Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins play Game 5 of their Eastern Conference Second Round series at Verizon Center on Saturday (7:15 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVA Sports). The Penguins lead the best-of-7 series 3-1.

Here are 5 keys for Game 5:


The Capitals are looking to come back from a 3-1 deficit for the third time in their history and first time since their 2009 first-round series against the New York Rangers. If they don't win Saturday their season is over. That should be all the motivation they need to come up with their best game of the playoffs.

Although the Penguins have won the past three games, they don't want to take anything for granted. They also were up 3-1 against the Rangers in the first round and finished that series in five games. They'd like to do the same against the Capitals.

"When you have a team in that situation you want to make the most of the opportunity," Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said Saturday. "We have to have the same type of approach as we would with any other playoff game, but just understand the situation and know what to expect."

Video: Pens know to expect desperate Capitals team in Game 5


After Penguins coach Mike Sullivan took advantage of having the last change on home ice to get Crosby's line, with Conor Sheary and Patric Hornqvist, away from the Capitals top line of Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie for some shifts in Game 4, it's Capitals coach Barry Trotz's turn to make adjustments.

In practice Friday, Trotz moved Evgeny Kuznetsov, who has no even-strength points in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, up from the second line to take Backstrom's place between Ovechkin and Oshie, and put Backstrom on the second line with Andre Burakovsky and Marcus Johansson. With last change on home ice, that would allow Trotz to match Backstrom against Crosby but get Ovechkin away from that matchup and possibly get Kuznetsov going.

"In this series, for the most part I think [Pittsburgh] has gotten pretty even production from all four lines and I can't say that with our team," Trotz said. "So, I'm just trying to change the mojo a little bit and see if we can get a little more balance in our production and get some production in the series so we can jump back in it."

Video: PIT@WSH, Gm2: Johansson buries loose puck to tie it


This applies to both teams. The Penguins are 0-for-14 in the series after going 8-for-21 in the first round against the Rangers. The Capitals are 1-for-12 after going 8-for-27 in the first round against the Philadelphia Flyers.

Aggressive penalty killers have forced bad passes and made it difficult for the power plays to get set up in the attacking zone. The Penguins have been successful without getting anything from their power play, but a goal or two on the man-advantage would have made a difference for the Capitals with each game being decided by one goal.

"It's important, but in the playoffs I think everybody is so concentrated on the power play and the penalty kill," Ovechkin said. "You have to fight through it. The goalie is playing well. The defense is playing well. We have to stay disciplined, stay on the same page."


With defenseman Kris Letang suspended for the 3-2 overtime victory in Game 4, the Penguins were able to get by because they made the Capitals work in their end and pressured them into turnovers (see Horvqvist's winning goal). That time spent trying to get out of the defensive zone prevented the Capitals from taking advantage of Letang's absence as much as they wanted to in the offensive end.

Although the Capitals lost 3-2 in Game 3, they had a lot of success in that game pressuring and being physical with the Penguins defensemen in their end. They need to get back to that in Game 5 to have their best chance to force a Game 6 on Tuesday back in Pittsburgh.

Video: WSH@PIT, Gm4: Holtby stretches out to rob Crosby


Holtby is a finalist for the Vezina Trophy, awarded annually to the League's top goaltender, and the Ted Lindsay Award, which goes to the League's most outstanding player as voted by members of the National Hockey League Players' Association. He is getting outplayed in this series, however, by 21-year-old rookie Matt Murray.

Holtby, 26, has been the victim of some odd bounces the past two games. But as one of the League's elite goaltenders, he needs to come up with another save or two and maybe steal a game, as Murray did by making 47 saves in Game 3.

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