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5 Keys: Capitals at Hurricanes, Game 6

Washington can advance to second round; Carolina's depth being tested in hopes of avoiding elimination

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / Staff Writer



Washington leads best-of-7 series 3-2

The Washington Capitals will try to eliminate the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference First Round at PNC Arena on Monday.

The Capitals were 4-0 in potential series-clinching games on their way to winning the Stanley Cup last season. Washington is seeking to reach the second round for the fifth straight season.


[RELATED: Full Capitals vs. Hurricanes series coverage]


The winner of this series advances to face the New York Islanders.

The home team has won each of the first five games. Washington won 6-0 in Game 5 at home on Saturday after Carolina won Games 3 and 4 by a combined 7-1.

Here are 5 keys for Game 6:


1. Score first

Maybe this will be the game this trend ends, but the team that scored first won each of the first five games. In fact, there has yet to be a lead change in the series.

Nicklas Backstrom's power-play goal gave the Capitals a 1-0 lead into Game 5 and they never trailed on their way to a 6-0 win.

The Capitals led for 141:46 of a total 181:48 and never trailed in winning Games 1, 2 and 5. The Hurricanes led for 102:03 of 120 minutes and never trailed in winning Games 3 and 4.

"I think when you are at home you know it allows you to get some more energy from your crowd," Capitals coach Todd Reirden said of scoring first. "It's something different than we saw all regular season from teams giving up more leads than ever. So it hasn't followed in line with the regular season, but it seems in this particular series it has played a big role."


2. Empty the tank

The Hurricanes looked like they might be running out of gas in Game 5 and coach Rod Brind'Amour suggested their injuries might be catching up with them. Can they dig down and find more for Game 6?

Brind'Amour said there is a possibility Carolina will get at least one of its injured players back after forwards Micheal Ferland (upper body), Jordan Martinook (lower body) and Andrei Svechnikov (concussion) skated Monday morning. In addition, rookie Clark Bishop was recalled from Charlotte of the American Hockey League. If Bishop plays, he'd be the 14th player to make his Stanley Cup Playoff debut for Carolina in the series.

The Capitals have injury troubles too with forward T.J. Oshie (fractured right clavicle) and defenseman Michal Kempny (torn left hamstring) out, but they have more depth.

"You take three guys out of our top nine that we're already potentially a little bit thin, and it's the type of guys that you're taking out," Brind'Amour said. "So you're asking a lot for callups and guys to fill those roles. That's the big challenge we have."


3. Hit factory

The Capitals established their forecheck and committed to wearing down the Hurricanes physically by outhitting them 48-32 in Game 5, including 14 hits on defensemen. Alex Ovechkin led the way with a game-high 11 hits.

That approach paid dividends for the Capitals during their Cup run last season and they hope it does the same over the long grind of the first round.

Carolina saw the benefits of physical play when it outhit Washington 86-67 in Games 3 and 4 and will look to reestablish that part of its game.



4. Do something special

The team that won the special teams battle has won every game other than Game 4, when the Capitals scored on the power play and the Hurricanes, who won 2-1, did not.

Specials were particularly important in Game 5. Trailing 1-0 after Backstrom's first period power-play goal, Carolina had three consecutive power plays in the second period and couldn't convert, managing four totals shots on goal. Backstrom scored again 19 seconds after the third Hurricanes power play expired to make it 2-0.


5. Sebastian Aho

Although Brind'Amour said the Hurricanes can win the series without getting more from Sebastian Aho, he acknowledged the 21-year-old center has another gear.

After leading Carolina with 30 goals and 83 points during the regular season, Aho has three points (one goal, two assists) in the playoffs. The highlight for Aho and linemates Nino Niederreiter (one assist) and Teuvo Teravainen (one goal, one assist) was Teravainen's winning goal in Game 4, but they've been mostly quiet otherwise. 

"Obviously, we need (Aho)," Brind'Amour said. "Our best players have to be probably a little more impactful than (Game 5), but I don't think he has to be a superstar."


Capitals projected lineup

Alex Ovechkin -- Nicklas Backstrom -- Tom Wilson

Jakub Vrana -- Evgeny Kuznetsov -- Carl Hagelin

Andre Burakovsky -- Lars Eller -- Brett Connolly

Chandler Stephenson -- Nic Dowd -- Devante Smith-Pelly

Jonas Siegenthaler -- John Carlson

Dmitry Orlov -- Matt Niskanen

Brooks Orpik -- Nick Jensen

Braden Holtby

Pheonix Copley

Scratched: Christian Djoos, Travis Boyd, Dmitrij Jaskin, Parker Milner

Injured: Michal Kempny (torn left hamstring), T.J. Oshie (clavicle)


Hurricanes projected lineup

Nino Niederreiter -- Sebastian Aho -- Teuvo Teravainen

Warren Foegele -- Jordan Staal -- Justin Williams

Brock McGinn -- Lucas Wallmark -- Saku Maenalanen

Greg McKegg -- Clark Bishop -- Patrick Brown

Jaccob Slavin -- Dougie Hamilton

Brett Pesce -- Justin Faulk

Calvin de Haan -- Trevor van Riemsdyk

Petr Mrazek

Curtis McElhinney

Scratched: Haydn Fleury

Injured: Andrei Svechnikov (concussion), Micheal Ferland (upper body), Jordan Martinook (lower body)


Status report

The Hurricanes did not hold a morning skate. … Svechnikov did not wear a non-contact jersey when he was on the ice. "We'll know when they get off the skate here who's ready to go," Brind'Amour said.


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