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5 Keys: Capitals at Maple Leafs, Game 6

Toronto needs scoring from power play; Washington wants fast start

by Dave McCarthy / NHL.com Correspondent

CAPITALS at MAPLE LEAFS

7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVA Sports 2, CSN-DC

Washington leads best-of-7 series 3-2

 

TORONTO -- The Washington Capitals broke a 2-2 tie in their Eastern Conference First Round series against the Toronto Maple Leafs in Game 5 when Justin Williams scored in overtime goal to give them a 2-1 win.

The Maple Leafs are 6-15 all-time in best-of-7 playoff series when trailing 3-2.

Here are 5 keys for Game 6:

 

1. Capitals have to earn it

The Capitals overcame a 2-1 series deficit with a 5-4 win in Game 4 and a 2-1 overtime win in Game 5 to go up 3-2. With the Maple Leafs facing elimination, the Capitals are anticipating a very desperate opponent.

"You can do anything you want in life but nothing gives you urgency until you have your back up against the wall," Capitals coach Barry Trotz. "You're in survival mode. You become very resilient. I'm expecting a very, very resilient Toronto Maple Leafs team. They've proven it all year long. They've proved it in this series so we have to be very, very good tonight."

Video: Recap of Game 5 between the Maple Leafs and Capitals

 

2. Power play

The Maple Leafs power play ranked second during the regular season (23.8 percent) but has not been as successful in the playoffs, going 3-for-17 (17.6 percent) including 0-for-4 in Game 5. Toronto had a power play for 1:34 to start the third period and another at 7:36 of the third period but could not score to break a 1-1 tie.

"The power play is definitely an area where we have to improve on. We weren't good enough (in Game 5)," Maple Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly said. "(It was) missed opportunities to capitalize in an area of the game that we usually take a lot of pride in. When we went over the tape and what happened, most of what we saw was us doing it to ourselves. Our break-ins weren't great; I think we have to come with more speed."

The Capitals have taken advantage of their own power-play opportunities going 5-for-15 (33.3 percent) in the series.

 

3. Mitchell Marner adjusting to playoff hockey

Marner was not as noticeable in Game 5, failing to get a shot in 14:29 of ice time. With 61 points in 77 regular season games, Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock often referred to Marner throughout the regular season as the engine on a line with James van Riemsdyk and Tyler Bozak. Babcock said that Marner is learning the differences between regular season and playoff hockey but is confident he will make the adjustments quickly.

"He's like all young players when you start, it goes away on you in a hurry, you can't believe there's no space," Babcock said. "But no one loves hockey more than Mitch Marner and no one is more competitive than Mitch. He'll be great (in Game 6), everything about Mitch he's a big moment guy and he'll find his way."

Video: TOR@WSH, Gm1: Marner lays out to open the scoring

 

4. Manage the pressure

The energy at Air Canada Centre will be palpable but the Maple Leafs have to manage the pressure and emotions of playing on home ice better than they did in Games 3 and 4 when they gave up two goals in the first five minutes of each game.

"We just need to worry about our game plan, we have the fans behind us and we're appreciative of that," Maple Leafs forward Brian Boyle said. "It's exciting for them, it's exciting for us to be at home but if we're focused on our game plan, we're going to play better hockey and ultimately the fans are going to be happier."

 

5. Auston Matthews

After failing to score in Games 1 and 2, Auston Matthews has scored in each of the past three games, becoming the fourth rookie in Maple Leafs history to score a goal in three or more consecutive playoff games, joining Alf Skinner (1918), Walt Poddubny (1983) and Wendel Clark (1986). Facing his first Stanley Cup Playoff elimination game, he stressed a better start will be critical.

"The mindset doesn't really change," Matthews said. "We've got to come out ready to play, so we can force a Game 7, but I don't think we want to change much. Obviously we want to clean some stuff up on the power play, so that everybody's in sync. But all these games are going to overtime, and it's really anybody's game. So tonight, we've got to come out desperate, despite to win."

Video: TOR@WSH, Gm5: Matthews scores with quick hands

 

Capitals projected lineup

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

Marcus Johansson -- Evgeny Kuznetsov -- Justin Williams

Andre Burakovsky -- Lars Eller -- Tom Wilson

Daniel Winnik -- Jay Beagle -- Brett Connolly

Nate Schmidt -- John Carlson

Dmitry Orlov -- Matt Niskanen

Brooks Orpik -- Kevin Shattenkirk

Braden Holtby

Philipp Grubauer

Scratched: Paul Carey, Taylor Chorney

Injured: Karl Alzner (upper body)

 

Maple Leafs projected lineup

James van Riemsdyk -- Tyler Bozak -- Mitchell Marner

Leo Komarov -- Nazem Kadri -- Connor Brown

Zach Hyman -- Auston Matthews -- William Nylander

Matt Martin -- Brian Boyle -- Kasperi Kapanen

Matt Hunwick -- Morgan Rielly

Jake Gardiner -- Nikita Zaitsev

Martin Marincin -- Connor Carrick

Frederik Andersen

Curtis McElhinney

Scratched: Alexey Marchenko, Ben Smith, Josh Leivo

Injured: Roman Polak (lower body), Eric Fehr (hand / arm), Nikita Soshnikov (undisclosed)

 

Status report

Alzner participated in the morning skate but will miss his fourth consecutive game.

 

Who's hot

Williams has five points (three goals, two assists) in his past five games. ... Backstrom has six points (two goals, four assists) during a four-game point streak. ... Oshie has seven points (three goals, four assists) during a five-game point streak. ... Matthews has four points (three goals, one assist) during a three-game point streak. ... Nylander has four points (one goal, three assists) during a three-game point streak.

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