The Washington Capitals find themselves in yet another must-win situation against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday night, with Game Six of their Eastern Conference second round series set to go. They earned a shot at redemption with a big comeback in Game Five, snagging three third period goals for a 4-2 win.
The Penguins will be ready, however, and that means the Capitals can’t afford to fight from behind.
Washington did play some effective hockey while desperate, as the third period of Game Five illustrated. They scored two goals 27 seconds apart and applied some serious pressure, outshooting the Penguins 32-22 after allowing just 10 Pittsburgh shots in the first two periods.
The win exposed a problem for the Penguins: they haven’t played a complete game against Washington in this series.
Sure, Pittsburgh is 7-3 in these playoffs.
But the Capitals have beaten them in possession statistics and have been able to dominate for long stretches while the Penguins sat back.
Pittsburgh has been able to make hay thanks to a less-than-stellar performance from Washington goalie Braden Holtby and a less-than-stellar showing from Alex Ovechkin. The latter criticized himself after Game Four and seemed to find his legs in Game Five, delivering a goal and boosting his linemates.
History hasn’t been kind to the Capitals and they’re going to need to rewrite the script when it comes to Game Six against the Penguins. Last year, Washington fought their way back into the second-round series after facing a 3-1 deficit. And last year, Washington needed a Game Six win to stay alive.
Last year, Pittsburgh eliminated the Capitals in Game Six.
“It’s an opportunity to be in the same situation and write a different ending, which is very lucky for us. That’s what you want,” Washington defenceman Karl Alzner said Monday. “You want another opportunity and a crack at the game and this is exactly it.”
The Penguins will face Game Six without defenceman Trevor Daley, who left Game Five with a lower body injury and is listed as day-to-day. It’s believed defenceman Chad Ruhwedel will take his place, as he was slotted next to Olli Maatta in the morning skate.
It also looks like Pittsburgh will reunite the famed “HBK line,” with Nick Bonino centering Carl Hagelin and Phil Kessel. The Penguins utilized the unit in Game Two before readjusting and putting Kessel with Evgeni Malkin, but the “HBK line” played effectively against Washington last year and could reappear in Game Six.