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5 Keys: Capitals at Hurricanes, Game 4

Washington will try to dictate pace by scoring first; Carolina hopes to continue dominating on special teams

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / Staff Writer



Washington leads best-of-7 series 2-1

The Carolina Hurricanes will try to even the Eastern Conference First Round against the Washington Capitals with a win in Game 4 at PNC Arena on Thursday.


[RELATED: Complete Capitals vs. Hurricanes series coverage]


The home team has won all three games in the series, with Carolina prevailing 5-0 in Game 3 on Monday. In their first Stanley Cup Playoff appearance since 2009, the Hurricanes earned their first postseason win since a 3-2 overtime victory at the Boston Bruins in Game 7 of the 2009 Eastern Conference Final. 

Washington was 10-3 on the road en route to winning the Stanley Cup last season, never losing more than one road game in a series.

Teams that take a 3-1 lead in a best-of-7 series are 276-28 (90.7 percent) all-time.

Here are 5 keys for Game 4:


1. Score first

The team that scored first won each of the first three games. In Game 3, the Hurricanes took their first lead of the series on Warren Foegele's deflection goal 9:43 into the first period, which further fueled an energetic crowd and got the Capitals back on their heels.

Scoring first Thursday might help the Capitals take control of the pace of the game and quiet the crowd a little.

"They got a lot of energy from their building," forward T.J. Oshie said. "It was a pretty cool atmosphere. But if we don't make mistakes and we help each other out and make the game harder for them, make it harder for them to play the body, make it harder for them to get shots to the net, we can take away a lot of that momentum from them and from the building."


2. Special teams

Carolina's special teams owned Game 4. The Hurricanes went 2-for-5 on the power play, getting a pair of goals from defenseman Dougie Hamilton, and killed off all four Washington power plays. 

The Hurricanes were 0-for-3 with the man-advantage in Game 1 and is 3-for-10 over the past two games. Since scoring on their first two power-play opportunities in Game 1, the Capitals are 0-for-10. 

"We had a couple PK meetings and looked at a couple details, but we didn't change much," Carolina center Sebastian Aho said. "We just trust our own system and it's been good."

Video: WSH@CAR, Gm3: Hamilton pads lead with power-play goal


3. Pressure the defense

The Hurricanes were very good at this in Games 1 and 3, using their forecheck to force turnovers in the Capitals' zone that led to sustained pressure and scoring chances. Carolina had a 45-18 advantage in shots on goal in Game 3, holding Washington without one for a stretch of 23:04.

The Capitals have had trouble moving the puck out of their end without defenseman Michal Kempny, who had season-ending surgery to repair a torn left hamstring April 2. With Christian Djoos struggling, the Capitals will insert rookie defenseman Jonas Siegenthaler, who will make his NHL postseason debut. Washington would like to put more pressure on Carolina's defensemen and wear them down physically to keep some of the pressure off its own defense.


4. Forward depth

Carolina's scoring depth was a question mark before losing rookie forward Andrei Svechnikov (concussion) and forward Micheal Ferland (upper body) to injuries in Game 3. Svechnikov was fourth on the Hurricanes with 20 goals during the regular season and is tied for the team lead with two playoff goals. Ferland was fourth with 40 points (17 goals, 23 assists) in the regular season.

Rookie forward Warren Foegele stepped up in Game 3 with three points (two goals, one assist) and will be counted on again in Game 4.

Other than Lars Eller's clinching empty-net goal in Game 1, the Capitals' bottom six forwards have yet to score a goal in the series. That's part of the reason they'll move Andre Burakovsky (12 goals during the regular season) up from the fourth line to the third line with Eller and Brett Connolly for Game 4.

Video: WSH@CAR, Gm3: Foegele tips Faulk's shot past Holtby


5. Braden Holtby

If not for Holtby (40 saves), the Capitals probably would have been down by five or six goals after two periods in Game 3 instead of 3-0. But Washington was expected to have an advantage in net with Holtby (3.30 goals-against average, .902 save percentage in series) against Carolina's Petr Mrazek (2.34 GAA, .897 save percentage, one shutout) and that hasn't been the case thus far.

Washington's defensemen need to help Holtby more and he can help them by coming out of his net to play dump-ins. With quick, accurate passes to his defensemen, Holtby can speed up the Capitals' breakouts and slow the Hurricanes' forecheck.


Capitals projected lineup

Alex Ovechkin -- Nicklas Backstrom -- T.J. Oshie 

Jakub Vrana -- Evgeny Kuznetsov -- Tom Wilson

Andre Burakovsky -- Lars Eller -- Brett Connolly

Carl Hagelin -- Nic Dowd -- Travis Boyd

John Carlson -- Nick Jensen

Dmitry Orlov -- Matt Niskanen

Brooks Orpik -- Jonas Siegenthaler 

Braden Holtby

Pheonix Copley

Scratched: Christian Djoos, Chandler Stephenson, Dmitrij Jaskin, Vitek Vanecek

Injured: Michal Kempny (torn left hamstring)


Hurricanes projected lineup 

Nino Niederreiter -- Sebastian Aho -- Teuvo Teravainen

Warren Foegele -- Jordan Staal -- Justin Williams

Brock McGinn -- Lucas Wallmark -- Jordan Martinook 

Saku Maenalanen -- Greg McKegg -- Patrick Brown

Jaccob Slavin -- Dougie Hamilton

Brett Pesce -- Justin Faulk

Haydn Fleury -- Trevor van Riemsdyk

Petr Mrazek

Curtis McElhinney

Scratched: Saku Maenalanen, Jake Bean

Injured: Andrei Svechnikov (concussion) Calvin de Haan (upper body), Micheal Ferland (upper body)


Status report

Boyd will also play his first game of the series. … The Hurricanes did not hold a morning skate. … Svechnikov skated Thursday wearing a full cage. … Brind'Amour said de Haan may take warmups and has not been ruled out for Game 4. … Brown was recalled from Charlotte of the American Hockey League on Tuesday.

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