Skip to Main Content
game preview

5 Keys: Penguins at Capitals, Game 5

Sidney Crosby is game-time decision for Pittsburgh; Washington needs win to extend series

by Katie Brown / Correspondent


7:15 p.m. ET; CBC, NBC, SN, TVA Sports

Pittsburgh leads the best-of-7 series 3-1


ARLINGTON, Va . -- The Washington Capitals must win Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Second Round against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Verizon Center or their season is over.

Pittsburgh leads the best-of-7 series 3-1.

A loss to the Penguins would mean that Pittsburgh has ended their season in the second round in back-to-back year after Washington won the Presidents' Trophy as the top finisher in the regular season

Washington has overcome a 3-1 series deficit twice since entering the NHL in 1974. The Capitals rallied to defeat the Philadelphia Flyers in the 1988 Patrick Division Semifinals and came back to eliminate the New York Rangers in the 2009 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, NHL teams that take a 3-1 lead in a best-of-7 series are 267-28 (90.5 percent), including 3-0 this year. Pittsburgh is 13-3 all-time when leading 3-1 in a Stanley Cup Playoff series.

Here are 5 keys for Game 5:


Sidney Crosby

Center Sidney Crosby passed baseline concussion testing on Friday and is a game-time decision. He sustained a concussion Monday in Game 3 after a first-period hit by Matt Niskanen and sat out Game 4. But Pittsburgh's captain has skated for three days in a row and went through a full-contact practice Friday. Crosby was not at Pittsburgh's optional morning skate on Saturday but coach Mike Sullivan said it was part of his typical game-day routine. Crosby has 11 points (four goals, seven assists) in eight playoff games.

"As I said from the start, that the health and safety of our players is always the priority and that will never change," Sullivan said. "But we trust our medical staff, we trust the doctors that are monitoring these guys."

Video: Should the Penguins play Sidney Crosby up 3-1?


Double-shifting Alex Ovechkin

Forward Alex Ovechkin was moved to Washington's third line in practice on Friday, but it isn't considered a demotion. Coach Barry Trotz plans to double-shift Ovechkin, who usually plays left wing on Washington's top line, in order to get more production from each of the four lines. Trotz will dress 11 forwards and seven defensemen for the third consecutive game.

"You're going to see a lot of different combinations," Trotz said. "Our top players are going to play a big role in that. One thing you find with top players, they make other players better. That's what we're trying to play better."


Step it up

Washington has some key players who have performed well in elimination games. Ovechkin has 19 points (nine goals, 10 assists) in 18 games when the Capitals have faced elimination; Justin Williams is 13-6 and has 26 points (14 goals, 12 assists) in those games. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Williams' average of 0.74 goals per game in elimination games is the third-best in NHL history among players who have faced elimination at least 10 times, trailing only Hockey Hall of Famers Maurice Richard (0.88; 15 goals in 17 games) and Pavel Bure (0.80; 12 goals in 15 games).

Video: PIT@WSH, Gm1: Ovechkin picks the corner with rocket



Marc-Andre Fleury of the Penguins has outplayed Washington's Braden Holtby through the first four games of the series. Fleury made 36 saves in Pittsburgh's 3-2 win in Game 4 on Wednesday, the eighth time in nine playoff games he's had 30 or more saves. Fleury leads all goaltenders in the second round with a save percentage of .937. Holtby has allowed 11 goals on 83 shots, a .867 save percentage.


Go for it

The Capitals haven't been able to finish many of their prime scoring chances against Pittsburgh and feel that they have been playing to safe. They have to do more to get the puck in the net in Game 5 or risk having enough season end too early.

"We're going to take some risks, and they've been able to capitalize on a lot of their good chances," defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said. "I think that's been the difference. We haven't been able to bury some of those really, really good scoring chances that we've had."

Video: WSH@PIT, Gm4: Kuznetsov beats Fleury short side


Penguins projected lineup

Jake Guentzel - Evgeni Malkin - Phil Kessel

Chris Kunitz - Matt Cullen -- Patric Hornqvist

Carl Hagelin -- Nick Bonino - Bryan Rust

Scott Wilson - Carter Rowney -- Tom Kuhnhackl

Brian Dumoulin -- Ron Hainsey

Olli Maatta -- Trevor Daley

Ian Cole -- Justin Schultz

Marc-Andre Fleury

Tristan Jarry

Scratched: Mark Streit, Chad Ruhwedel

Injured: Sidney Crosby (concussion), Conor Sheary (concussion); Matt Murray (lower body), Kris Letang (upper body)


Capitals projected lineup

Andre Burakovsky -- Nicklas Backstrom -- T.J. Oshie

Marcus Johansson -- Evgeny Kuznetsov -- Justin Williams

Alex Ovechkin -- Lars Eller -- Tom Wilson

Daniel Winnik -- Jay Beagle --

Dmitry Orlov -- Matt Niskanen

Brooks Orpik -- John Carlson

Nate Schmidt -- Kevin Shattenkirk

Karl Alzner

Braden Holtby

Philipp Grubauer

Scratched: Brett Connolly, Taylor Chorney, Paul Carey

Injured: None


Status report

Sheary also passed baseline concussion testing and is a game-time decision. … The Capitals reassigned forward Chandler Stephenson to Hershey of the American Hockey League on Saturday.


Who's hot

Malkin has 16 points (four goals, 12 assists) and is the playoff leader in assists and points. Kessel has 12 points (four goals, eight assists). Guentzel has 12 points (eight goals, four assists) and is tied for playoff lead in goals with Ryan Getzlaf of the Anaheim Ducks. … Backstrom has 10 points (four goals, six assists), including four points (two goals, two assists) in his past three games. Williams has nine points (three goals, six assists), including three assists in his past two games. Kuznetsov has three points (two goals, one assist) in his past two games.

View More

The NHL has updated its Privacy Policy effective January 16, 2020. We encourage you to review it carefully.

The NHL uses cookies, web beacons, and other similar technologies. By using NHL websites or other online services, you consent to the practices described in our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service, including our Cookie Policy.