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5 Keys: Capitals at Golden Knights, Game 5

Washington one win from Stanley Cup; Vegas trying to keep season alive

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

CAPITALS at GOLDEN KNIGHTS

8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS

Capitals lead best-of-7 series 3-1

 

LAS VEGAS -- The Washington Capitals can win the Stanley Cup for the first time Thursday.

The Capitals are 9-3 on the road in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and 3-0 when they can end a series (all on the road).

Teams that have a 3-1 lead in the Stanley Cup Final have won the series 32 of 33 times since 1939, when the NHL started using the best-of-7 format.

 

[RELATED: Complete Golden Knights vs. Capitals series coverage]

 

"It's going to be the hardest one," Washington captain Alex Ovechkin said. "We just have to get it done."

The Golden Knights have not lost more than three games in a row this season. They are 7-2 at T-Mobile Arena in the playoffs.

"Stuff that we've done this year has never been done," Vegas forward Jonathan Marchessault said. "So that's the thinking that we have right now."

Here are five keys for Game 5:

 

1. Make 'em count

The Golden Knights have been lamenting their missed opportunities in Game 4 since losing 6-2 on Monday.

They were better at the start of the game and easily could have led by multiple goals in the first 10 minutes, but Erik Haula hit the post on a deflection at 1:07 and James Neal hit the post instead of scoring into a wide-open net at 4:31.

Vegas led 5-1 in shots on goal and 13-2 in shot attempts through the first nine minutes but didn't score. Washington led 3-0 at the end of the first period.

"We should have had two, but things happen," Golden Knights forward Reilly Smith said. "We've got to do a better job of putting pucks in the back of the net."

Video: Discussing the Golden Knights' missed opportunities

 

2. Stay aggressive

Washington center Nicklas Backstrom said the Capitals have done well in elimination games this postseason because they've aggressively attacked their opponents instead of sitting back and waiting for opportunities.

They've done well against the Golden Knights in part because they've been aggressive defensively, especially in the neutral zone, and created chances off turnovers.

Staying as aggressive as they've been would help the Capitals avoid the fate of the 1942 Detroit Red Wings, the only team to lose the Cup Final after leading 3-1. Detroit lost four straight games to the Toronto Maple Leafs after winning the first three.

 

3. Fleury must step up

It may have been easy to predict that Vegas goalie Marc-Andre Fleury would struggle to keep up the .947 save percentage he had through the first three rounds, but nobody would have expected an .845 save percentage (16 goals on 103 shots) in the Final.

Fleury hasn't gotten much help from his teammates, but he hasn't had a signature moment in the series. He might need one in Game 5 to keep Vegas alive.

"Our team has to play better defense in front of him," Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant said.

 

4. Top line vs. top line

Washington's top line of Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Tom Wilson has dominated Vegas' top line of Marchessault, William Karlsson and Smith.

Ovechkin, Kuznetsov and Wilson have combined for 13 points (five goals, eight assists) and are plus-9. Marchessault, Karlsson and Smith have combined for eight points (three goals, five assists) and are minus-6.

"Your best players have to be your best players," Marchessault said, "and we're going to bring our A-game."

Video: Redmond on Ovechkin, Capitals close to clinching

 

5. Block party

Washington blocked 50 shots in the past two games. Vegas blocked 17.

The Capitals have done a good job of insulating goalie Braden Holtby with layers of protection, and they've frustrated the Golden Knights in the process.

Vegas had 30 shots on goal and 71 shot attempts in Game 4. That mentality will be essential in Game 5, but the Golden Knights need to get more shots through and have more pressure at the net.

 

Capitals projected lineup

Alex Ovechkin -- Evgeny Kuznetsov -- Tom Wilson

Jakub Vrana -- Nicklas Backstrom -- T.J. Oshie

Andre Burakovsky -- Lars Eller -- Brett Connolly

Chandler Stephenson -- Jay Beagle -- Devante Smith-Pelly

Dmitry Orlov -- Matt Niskanen

Michal Kempny -- John Carlson

Brooks Orpik -- Christian Djoos

Braden Holtby

Philipp Grubauer

Scratched: Madison Bowey, Travis Boyd, Alex Chiasson, Pheonix Copley, Shane Gersich, Jakub Jerabek, Nathan Walker

Injured: none

 

Golden Knights projected lineup

Jonathan Marchessault -- William Karlsson -- Reilly Smith

James Neal -- Erik Haula -- Alex Tuch

Tomas Tatar -- Cody Eakin -- David Perron

Tomas Nosek -- Pierre-Edouard Bellemare -- William Carrier

Brayden McNabb -- Nate Schmidt

Shea Theodore -- Deryk Engelland

Luca Sbisa -- Colin Miller

Marc-Andre Fleury

Maxime Lagace

Scratched: Ryan Carpenter, Ryan Reaves, Brad Hunt, Oscar Lindberg, Jon Merrill

Injured: Malcolm Subban (undisclosed)

 

Status report

Carrier could make his Cup Final debut, replacing Reaves. He hasn't played since Game 5 of the Western Conference Second Round against the San Jose Sharks on May 4. He has missed 10 games with an undisclosed injury. In addition, Perron, who was scratched in Game 4, could be back in the lineup, replacing Carpenter. Vegas coach Gerard Gallant wouldn't discuss the potential lineup changes Thursday morning.

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