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5 Keys: Capitals at Hurricanes, Game 3

Washington eyes better production on power play; Carolina must take advantage of last change

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / Staff Writer



Washington leads best-of-7 series 2-0


[RELATED: Complete Capitals vs. Hurricanes series coverage]


The Washington Capitals will try to push the Carolina Hurricanes within one game of elimination when they play Game 3 of the Eastern Conference First Round at PNC Arena on Monday.

The Capitals have won six straight Stanley Cup Playoff games since losing Game 1 of the 2018 Stanley Cup Final to the Vegas Golden Knights, outscoring opponents 24-13.

Teams that take a 3-0 lead in a best-of-7 series are 186-4. The San Jose Sharks are the last team to blow a 3-0 lead, doing so against the Los Angeles Kings in the 2014 Western Conference First Round.

After losing the first two games in Washington, the Hurricanes will play their first postseason game on home ice since Game 4 of the 2009 Eastern Conference Final against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The Capitals have won all six games between the teams this season, including four in the regular season.

Here are 5 keys for Game 3:


1. Play with the lead

The Hurricanes hope the crowd support from playing their first home playoff game in 10 years will give them an early boost to take their first lead in the series. The Capitals jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first period of a 4-2 win in Game 1 and a 2-0 lead in the first period of 4-3 overtime victory in Game 2 and never trailed in either.

Although the Hurricanes battled back in each game -- closing within 3-2 in the third period of Game 1 and twice tying Game 2 -- they know that playing from behind is not a recipe for success. The Capitals were 33-9-1 when scoring first in the regular season.

"When you're chasing it, you start getting away from what you want to do and that doesn't work very well," Hurricanes coach Rod Brind'Amour said. "I give our guys again a lot of credit because we keep digging in and we're finding ways to get into these games where we haven't played our best and still we've had a chance to win. So I'd love to see our best and then see what happens."

Video: Capitals strike in overtime to grab 2-0 series lead


2. Top-six production

The Capitals' top two lines have dominated so far. Their first line of Alex Ovechkin (one goal, two assists), Nicklas Backstrom (three goals, one assist) and Tom Wilson (one goal, one assist) has combined for nine points (five goals, four assists).  

Washington's second line of Carl Hagelin or Jakub Vrana with Evgeny Kuznetsov (three assists) and T.J. Oshie (one goal, one assist) has contributed offensively, including setting up defenseman Brooks Orpik's overtime goal in Game 2 while helping contain the Hurricanes top line of Nino Niederreiter (no points), Sebastian Aho (one goal) and Justin Williams (one assist). Aho ended a 15-game goal drought in Game 2 but knows his line needs to be better.

"There's a lot of details in the game that we can do better," Aho said. "But it all starts with when you defend well, that's how you get your own chances too."

The Hurricanes' second line of Micheal Ferland (no points), Jordan Staal (one power-play goal) and Teuvo Teravainen (no points) also struggled to generate scoring chances at even strength the first two games. Based on the morning skate, Carolina likely will shuffle its lines.

 Video: CAR@WSH, Gm2: Staal redirects shot for PPG


3. Last change

Being at home and having the last change will give the Hurricanes the opportunity to get Aho's line away from Kuznetsov's line and the defense pair of Dmitry Orlov and Matt Niskanen. Brind'Amour said Sunday that he doesn't think the matchups have been an issue, but he needs to change something to give Aho's line more room to create scoring chances.

"I expect them to try to get away from some of the matchups that I've been able to get, whether that's with our forwards or our defensemen and the particular situations we want," Capitals coach Todd Reirden said. "We can still have some effect on that, and I'll have to wait and see how the game goes."


4. Contain neutral-zone speed

The Capitals have scored four of their five even-strength goals in the series on rush plays when they were able to generate speed through the neutral zone. The Hurricanes did a better job of containing that in Game 1 by tiring the Capitals in their end with forecheck pressure. Carolina also scored one of its goals in Game 1 off a rush play.

The Capitals were better at transitioning out of their defensive zone in Game 2, either with quick passes or by skating the puck out and scored three times on the rush as a result. 


5. Power play

The Capitals scored on their first two power plays of the series and that was the difference in their win in Game 1. But they've failed to convert on their last six opportunities, including a major power play for 4:09 in the second period of Game 2. 

The Hurricanes didn't score on their first seven chances of the series before Staal's deflection power-play goal with 5:00 left tied Game 2 and forced overtime.


Capitals projected lineup

Alex Ovechkin -- Nicklas Backstrom -- Tom Wilson

Jakub Vrana -- Evgeny Kuznetsov -- T.J. Oshie

Carl Hagelin -- Lars Eller -- Brett Connolly

Andre Burakovsky -- Nic Dowd -- Chandler Stephenson

John Carlson -- Nick Jensen

Dmitry Orlov -- Matt Niskanen

Brooks Orpik -- Christian Djoos

Braden Holtby

Pheonix Copley

Scratched: Jonas Siegenthaler, Travis Boyd, Dmitrij Jaskin, Vitek Vanecek

Injured: Michal Kempny (torn left hamstring)


Hurricanes projected lineup

Nino Niederreiter -- Sebastian Aho -- Teuvo Teravainen

Andrei Svechnikov -- Jordan Staal -- Justin Williams

Micheal Ferland -- Lucas Wallmark -- Jordan Martinook

Warren Foegele -- Greg McKegg -- Brock McGinn

Jaccob Slavin -- Dougie Hamilton

Brett Pesce -- Justin Faulk

Haydn Fleury -- Trevor van Riemsdyk

Petr Mrazek

Curtis McElhinney

Scratched: Saku Maenalanen, Jake Bean

Injured: Calvin de Haan (upper body)


Status report

McKegg, who played in Game 1, takes Maenalanen's place in the lineup. ... De Haan took part in Carolina's morning skate.



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