Washington Capitals vs. Carolina Hurricanes
Next game: Monday, 7 p.m. ET, PNC Arena | TV: NBCSN
• Game recap: T.J. Oshie was out, but his presence was felt in Game 5. Read more
• Statistical stars: The Capitals' veterans paced the win for Washington. Read more
• Highlights: All the highlights and analysis from Capital One Arena. Read more
• Postgame reading: Catch up on all The Post's coverage of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Read more
Final score: Capitals 6, Hurricanes 0
Washington Capitals surge to 6-0 Game 5 win over Carolina Hurricanes
By Isabelle Khurshudyan
The “T.J. Oshie!” chants started late in the third period, with the Washington Capitals well ahead on the scoreboard and their Stanley Cup-winning swagger apparently back. Oshie had been the one to start those “back-to-back” chants, inciting the crowd at the championship parade last June as he announced the team’s ambitions for this season.
After breaking his collarbone Thursday night, Oshie is expected to be sidelined for the remainder of this postseason, but in a pivotal Game 5, the Capitals answered the question of who would step up to replace him: everyone.
“You lose a key leader in T.J. Oshie, not one person is going to replace him,” Coach Todd Reirden said. “Everyone needed to take their game to a different level than it had been at.”
The Capitals finally flexed their depth and goaltender Braden Holtby recorded 30 saves in a 6-0 Game 5 victory Saturday to lift Washington to a 3-2 series lead with a chance to advance to the second round in Monday’s Game 6 at PNC Arena.
The score was appropriately lopsided as the Capitals rediscovered their game. They dominated at five-on-five with their most offensive-zone time of the series and a punishing forecheck. Their power play was dangerous, scoring three times, and their penalty kill was similarly stout with three second-period holds. Their longest-tenured players and superstars played like it: Center Nicklas Backstrom finished with two goals and two assists, and captain Alex Ovechkin had a goal and two primary helpers.
“Obviously they got on the point sheet, but their play away from the puck, on the forecheck, supporting each other, they’re real tough to play against when they play like that,” Holtby said. “I thought they’ve been doing a great job all playoffs, too. You can tell that they want to win, and the rest of the team will follow.”
Home ice was especially sweet after how PNC Arena wasn’t kind to the Capitals, first with a 5-0 blowout loss and then with a 2-1 Game 4 loss that also featured the devastating injury to Oshie. Washington’s scoring depth was hurting even before Oshie was pushed into the boards by Hurricanes forward Warren Foegele in the third period of Game 4. Most concerning about those two losses was that the Capitals didn’t have a five-on-five goal in either of them, and entering Saturday night’s Game 5, the bottom two lines had yet to score. Carolina had been the more physical team, giving Washington fits every time it tried to exit its own zone. The Capitals chose Saturday to make a statement that they were done getting pushed around, laying 48 hits, with Ovechkin accounting for 11 of them.
“We had been disappointed with our lack of physical play, even when we had success here in Game 1 and 2,” Reirden said. “We just felt that we really hadn’t imposed our will and played the type of physical brand of hockey that we’re capable of. We knew we had another level to get to. And that was a real strong point was how we were able to respond in that aspect because I think it is something that makes our team special is the ability to be able to execute high-end skill play but still be able to really physically be abrasive on the forecheck and then all over the ice and make it difficult for the opposition. So that’s much closer to how our identity needs to look.”
Through five games in this series, the team that scored first went on to win. Backstrom drew a high-stick infraction from Lucas Wallmark during a Carolina power play, negating the Hurricanes’ man-advantage and giving Washington an abbreviated one. He then collected a feed from defenseman John Carlson on the power play, and after goaltender Petr Mrazek stopped Backstrom’s first shot, Backstrom punched his own rebound through Mrazek’s legs for the 1-0 lead 7:33 into the game.
The Capitals then killed off three penalties in the second period, allowing just four shots, but they had just one of their own for the frame. The second one was an odd-man rush, with Ovechkin picking off a pass by Foegele to set up Backstrom for his second goal of the game. Backstrom’s five goals this series are a team high.
“I thought everyone actually played a good game tonight, and we just kept going,” Backstrom said. “Even if you have a couple of guys that have some points, it’s good that we play this way. This is the way we want to play. Hopefully we can keep rolling here.”
And then Washington finally got a five-on-five goal from a bottom-six forward. Hurricanes defenseman Dougie Hamilton either was expecting an icing call or he just didn’t want to get hit as he and Ovechkin raced down the ice. The whistle never came, and Ovechkin got the loose puck to feed Brett Connolly in front of the net for his first goal of the playoffs and a three-goal lead.
Tom Wilson scored on a power play to start the third period. Then fourth-line center Nic Dowd scored on a penalty shot, which he said was a first for his career after he had missed on roughly five. And after tallying two primary assists, Ovechkin added a goal with a power-play one-timer, stretching the lead to 6-0.
“To be honest, I think we drew a lot from Devo being here,” Dowd said.
With Oshie sidelined, the Capitals recalled forward Devante Smith-Pelly from the American Hockey League on Friday afternoon. Smith-Pelly became a fan favorite with seven goals in the playoffs last year, equaling his regular season total, but when Washington had to clear salary cap space for the trade-deadline additions of forward Carl Hagelin and defenseman Nick Jensen in late February, Smith-Pelly was the one waived and then sent down to the minors.
He got a warm welcome back to Capital One Arena with a standing ovation on his first shift of the game and then “D-S-P” chants later in the first period. With one member of the championship gang gone, the Capitals got some energy from having another back. They played as if it were June again.
“First of all, it sucks that [Oshie’s] out,” Backstrom said. “But at the same time, I think when you come together like that as a team, it’s a good feeling.
“Obviously, this one was for him.”
1. Nicklas Backstrom: Two goals and two assists plus four scoring chances, three from the slot or crease
2. Alex Ovechkin: Power-play goal plus two primary assists
3. Nic Dowd: Scored the first penalty shot playoff goal in franchise history
Not much to say about this one. The Capitals took it to the Hurricanes at even strength, on the power play and during the penalty kill. Their top skaters were their top players -- Ovechkin, Backstrom and Tom Wilson combined for nine points, 15 shot attempts and eight scoring chances -- and Braden Holtby outplayed Petr Mrazek in net.
If you are Carolina, take solace in the Sebastian Aho line, which continues to befuddle Washington’s defenders. Aho, along with Teuvo Teravainen and Nino Niederreiter, were on the ice for seven even-strength shot attempts for and just one against -- and that’s with Washington Coach Todd Reirden having the benefit of last change.
Still, Carolina is in a historically bad spot. Per WhoWins, teams like Washington that take a 3-2 series advantage in the first round advance 78 percent of the time.
Oshie checks in: Watching from home after sustaining an upper-body injury at the end of Game 4, T.J. Oshie responded via Twitter after Capitals fans chanted his names at various points during Washington’s Game 5 win.
End of third period: Capitals 6, Hurricanes 0 | A final penalty kill by Washington locked down the Capitals’ win as Braden Holtby locked down the shutout. Washington now leads the series 3-2 and will try to clinch it back in Carolina Monday night.
Make it 6-0: File this one under “statement game." Nicklas Backstrom won the faceoff to Evgeny Kuztnetsov, who fed it cleanly to Alex Ovechkin in the slot and like one second into the Capitals’ power play, they added sixth goal at 10:14 of the third period. Another goal by Washington will warrant a football pun about an extra point.
Nic Dowd makes it 5-0 on penalty shot: With 11:03 left in the third period Nic Dowd was awarded a penalty shot after being impeded by the Hurricanes on a breakaway, and converted in slick fashion, kicking his left leg behind him and then sliding a forehand through Petr Mrazek’s pads to put Washington up 5-0 and the route is on.
Ovechkin puts a hit on Foegele: Warren Foegele was the Hurricanes player that put T.J. Oshie out of commission with a dangerous cross check in Game 4, so he’s a little bit of a target for the Capitals. For Alex Ovechkin in the third period, it was hunting season.
Tom Wilson puts Capitals up 4-0: Just a minute and four seconds into the third period Evgeny Kuznetsov put the power-play shot on goal near the crease, Tom Wilson snared the rebound and muscled it towards the net, off the skate of Brett Pesce and into the net to give Washington a 4-0 lead and a lot of breathing room in Game 4.
The best have been the best: Your best players need to be your best players, and Washington has that going tonight. Nicklas Backstrom has two goals and three points, Alex Ovechkin has two assists and Tom Wilson has three hits, a takeaway and a blocked shot in 14 minutes of ice time.
The Capitals’ second line is starting to produce, too. Carl Hagelin, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Jakub Vrana don’t have points but they do have three scoring chances as a trio with just one chance allowed at even strength, quite the turnaround from the past four games. Brett Connolly has chipped in three more scoring chances from the bottom nine, plus his goal.
Sebastian Aho’s line, normally a thorn in Washington’s side this series, holds only a slight edge in scoring chances at even strength, 3 to 2, with a goal against. — Neil Greenberg
End of second period: The Hurricanes had the power plays, and the shots, but Washington had the goals, extending the lead to 3-0 in a game that feels like the complete opposite of Game 3.
Capitals have a chance to pour it on: Sebastian Aho took an offensive zone penalty with 52 seconds left in the period, putting Washington on the power play for the first time after three straight power-play chances from Carolina. Washington couldn’t capitalize in the second period, but will start the third with a minute-plus on the man-advantage.
Dougie Hamilton backs off, Capitals score: Alex Ovechkin came barreling down the ice in what seemed to be a potential icing call. Defenseman Dougie Hamilton didn’t play the puck, for reasons unclear, Ovechkin did and centered the puck to Brett Connolly in the slot and Connolly potted it for his first goal in the series. Replays seemed to show the puck was tipped by Ovechkin near the red line, so it was close but Hamilton made zero effort to actually play that puck and will likely be scrutinized in the next 24 hours. The Caps lead 3-0, but also notable is the fact that this was the third shot of the period for Washington. Two of them ended up in the back of the net.
Nicklas Backstrom cannot be stopped: In the fifth game of the first round, Backstrom has equaled his goal output from the entire 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Alex Ovechkin carried in the puck for a two-on-one during a bad change for the Hurricanes, then slid it over to Backstrom for the goal. Washington now leads, 2-0.
Capitals to the penalty kill again: Jonas Siegenthaler picked up another penalty with a hook on Warren Foegele, putting the Capitals shorthanded for the third time this period. Washington has played excellent hockey on the kill to this point in the game, but the Capitals are playing with fire if they keep taking minor penalties.
John Carlson gets controversial penalty: The Capitals fans are upset and with good reason. A two-on-one rush for the Capitals turned into a two-minute penalty after Carlson collided with goaltender Petr Mrazek. There were other factors however, including: (1) Mrazek was outside of the crease when contact was made and (2) Jordan Staal rode Carlson directly into Mrazek. Questionable call, but the Capitals go to the PK for the third time tonight. Washington was equal to the task however, holding the Hurricanes without a shot on the power play.
Calvin de Haan to the locker room, Evgeny Kuznetsov to the box: The Hurricanes will have the first power play of the second period and second of the night after Kuznetsov clipped de Haan in the head with his stick as he followed through with an open-ice body check. This is de Haan’s second game of the series after he was scratched for Games 1-3 with an undisclosed upper body injury. The Capitals killed of the penalty without too much drama.
Power play is on point: Washington’s power play came out swinging tonight. The first opportunity had (almost) everything you want to see from the unit: good zone time, quality chances and a nifty slap pass by Alex Ovechkin to Nicklas Backstrom that almost made its way to the net. The man-advantage would pay off later in the period with Backstrom’s fourth goal of the series. He had five goals total in the playoffs last year.
Playing with the man-advantage has been a blessing for Washington. It has 28 scoring chances, 16 from the slot or the crease, and four goals to show for it. But success at even strength continues to be an issue for the Capitals.
Through the first four games they have been outshot 104 to 71 at even strength in the series and that includes a 91 to 65 deficit in scoring chances. Tonight the Capitals are up in shots (6 to 3) but not scoring chances (3 to 3). Carl Hagelin, Tom Wilson and Chandler Stephenson are the only skaters with an even-strength scoring chance for Washington after one period.
Carolina’s Sebastian Aho has two of the team’s three scoring chances, his best effort a wrist shot from 12 feet away from Braden Holtby. That’s a shot attempt you’d expect to be a goal almost 18 percent of the time. — Neil Greenberg
End of first period: Capitals 1, Hurricanes 0: The Capitals needed to harness their energy to get this series turned back in their favor, and after 20 minutes, they’ve done just that. Of course, there are 40 more minutes of regulation to play, but Washington submitted a sublime early effort, outshooting Carolina 10-6 through the first period.
So, this happened: Late on the uptake here, but before the start of the game, Washington Redskins pass rusher Ryan Kerrigan gave the injured T.J. Oshie the best possible tribute by filtering his Bud Light (which is a league sponsor) through his sweater, as Oshie did during the Capitals’ Stanley Cup celebration. If the Capitals win this game, this should probably be a thing at every home game going forward.
Caps strike first with Backstrom goal: Washington’s veterans have again staked the Capitals to a lead at home. A near turnover was blocked off by a sprawling Alex Ovechkin as Carolina was heading into the Capitals’ zone on the penalty kill. Ovechkin instead sent the puck the other way, and it was ultimately dished by John Carlson across the slot to Nicklas Backstrom who recovered his own rebound to pot the game’s first goal. Washington leads, 1-0, and the home team has still never trailed in this series.
Washington heads to the kill, but refs book the wrong man: Lars Eller took down Saku Maenalanen off a defensive zone draw, seemingly earning a penalty. While the refs did call a penalty, they sent Brett Connolly to the box instead of Eller, who is one of Washington’s top penalty killers. So there’s a silver lining to the call for the Caps. Another blessing came when Jamie Wallmark cut short the Canes’ power play with a high stick to Nicklas Backstrom’s face just over a minute into the man-advantage.
Early chance for Washington: Tom Wilson drew an early power play for Washington by taking a hit (and a fall) after the whistle on the game’s second shift. Saku Maenalanen headed to the box for Carolina and Washington went to the man-advantage. The Capitals managed a couple of great scoring chances, including one by Nicklas Backstrom and another by Brett Connolly, but couldn’t come up with a goal.
Home, sweet home: The Washington Capitals returned home to Capital One Arena Saturday for Game 5, after losing two back-to-back games in Carolina. The Capitals have won five consecutive Game 5s at home when the series is tied 2-2. Every fan was given a red rally towel with the words, “ALL RED” on them, as well as a light stick.
Forward Devante Smith-Pelly, who was recalled Friday from the American Hockey League, will be playing in his first postseason game this year Saturday night. Earlier this season he was waived by the Capitals to make room for trade deadline acquisitions, forward Carl Hagelin and defenseman Nick Jensen. Smith-Pelly already got a warm ovation from fans at the Capitals’ practice facility Saturday morning during morning skate when he stepped on the ice and the welcome continued at Capital One Arena with fans cheering as he was shown on the videoboard.
Immerse yourself in the Capitals’ postseason with The Post’s coverage of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.