The pressure is on the Washington Capitals.
Playing on home ice at Verizon Center, the 2015-16 Presidents’ Trophy winners are one loss away from elimination in these playoffs. The Pittsburgh Penguins, up 3-1 in this second-round series, can advance to the Eastern Conference final with a win in Game 5 on Saturday. You can catch this game on NBC (7:15 p.m. ET) or online with the NBC Sports’ Live Extra.
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Here are some links to check out for tonight’s game:
Still no Maatta for Penguins in Game 5
Pens hold 3-1 series lead over Caps despite lack of production from power play
Facing elimination, it looks like the Capitals could shake up their top lines for Game 5
One loss from elimination, the Caps say they’re ‘not afraid’
Here’s a new one.
St. Louis Blues coach Ken Hitchcock had, well, an interesting analogy when describing Troy Brouwer‘s goal in Game 5 against the Dallas Stars on Saturday.
It wasn’t the prettiest goal. Brouwer finished off a nice passing play into what was essentially a wide open net. But the veteran forward nearly had the puck roll over his blade as he went to shoot.
That goal was huge, giving the Blues a two-goal lead as they took control in the second period. They now lead the series 3-2 and have two chances to eliminate the Stars and advance to the Western Conference final.
“It was rolling to begin with, so I just tried to hit it hard,” Brouwer told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
“It did flip over my stick, but I got enough. Looking at it again, I think if I would have got it right away and got good contact on it, his pad might have been in the way. I think it was actually fairly fortunate that I got only half of it.”
Brouwer scored a similar goal in Game 7 versus Chicago in the opening round. It was the series-deciding goal, too. Stationed in front, his initial attempt hit off the post on a wide open net, before he regained the puck and slid it in on the second try.
With the Washington Capitals facing elimination in the second round of the playoffs against the rival Pittsburgh Penguins after a Presidents’ Trophy-winning regular season, it appears coach Barry Trotz is about to shake things up for Game 5.
Did we mention the Capitals must win Game 5 on Saturday? Failure to do so, and what was a great season, which ushered in such great expectations for the playoffs, suddenly ends in a shroud of disappointment.
As per CSN Mid-Atlantic following Friday’s skate, Evgeny Kuznetsov skated on the top line in between wingers T.J. Oshie and Alex Ovechkin, while Nicklas Backstrom moved down to the second line between Andre Burakovsky and Marcus Johansson.
Production from Washington’s top centers has been lacking in this series, which the Capitals trail 3-1.
— Kuznetsov: One assist in four games. He has two points in 10 games this post-season.
— Backstrom: One assist in four games. He had seven points in six games versus Philadelphia.
Lose, and it’s a good bet Ovechkin will be the lightning rod for criticism from pundits.
But at some point, sooner rather than later, the lack of production from Kuznetsov and Backstrom will need to change if Washington is to come from behind in this series.
“We know each other and we know what we need to do on ice and all,” said Kuznetsov of playing on a line with Ovechkin. “Maybe some small areas we will correct a little bit, but it’s still same hockey. We just have to play our game.”
Nikita Kucherov added to his 2016 playoff-leading goal total on Friday, and the timing could not have been better for the Tampa Bay Lightning on the road.
Kucherov tied the game in the third period with his eighth goal of these playoffs (NHL.com lists his shooting percentage at 25 per cent) and Jason Garrison won it in overtime, giving the Lightning another victory in Brooklyn as they took a commanding 3-1 lead in this series against the New York Islanders.
Point production is nothing new for the 22-year-old Kucherov.
He’s coming off a 30-goal regular season. He averaged just below a point per game last post-season as Tampa Bay made it to the Stanley Cup Final. He scored 10 goals in the process. This year? He’s played in nine playoff games and has eight goals, which means he could shatter his previous career best at this time of year.
And his scoring has been a huge bonus for the Lightning without Steven Stamkos.
Meanwhile, the Islanders need a win to save their season. They played well in both Games 3 and 4 but couldn’t finish off the opposition. That included being unable to sustain a terrific start Friday.
As for their star, John Tavares, he hasn’t hit the score sheet in three straight games, despite strong puck possession numbers, according to hockeystats.ca.
New York Islanders head coach Jack Capuano felt his team needed a short memory after an overtime loss in Game 3, despite the belief it may have been one of the best games his team has played this post-season.
It may be impossible, however, to get over what happened Friday in Brooklyn.
In a pivotal Game 4, the Islanders had a great start. They grabbed an early lead on a pretty goal from Kyle Okposo as he finished off a nice passing play with the man advantage, and seemed intent on making Ben Bishop‘s night as difficult as possible.
After dominating the opening 20 minutes, New York couldn’t maintain the same standard. They outshot the Lightning 16-6 in the first period, but manufactured only 12 shots on goal the rest of the night.
That came back to burn them. And once again, it happened in OT.
The Lightning tied the game in the third period on a goal from Nikita Kucherov — his eighth of these playoffs. Less than two minutes into overtime, Jason Garrison won it for Tampa Bay on a blast from the point.
Lightning win 2-1. They now have a commanding 3-1 series lead, thanks to three straight wins including a sweep of this latest set in Brooklyn and keeping John Tavares off the score sheet in three straight games, and can eliminate the Islanders on home ice Sunday.