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NHL Playoffs: Capitals stave off elimination, beat Pens in Game 5

NHL Playoffs: Capitals stave off elimination, beat Pens in Game 5

WASHINGTON -- Evgeny Kuznetsov and Alex Ovechkin scored 27 seconds apart in the third period as the Washington Capitals avoided elimination by beating the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-2 in Game 5 on Saturday night.

Nicklas Backstrom tied the score early in the third as the Capitals finally solved Pittsburgh goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, who allowed four goals on 32 shots. Washington's comeback spoiled the return of Penguins captain Sidney Crosby after a one-game absence due to a concussion.

Crosby had an assist and Carl Hagelin and Phil Kessel also scored for the Penguins, who lead the second-round series 3-2 with Game 6 back in Pittsburgh on Monday night.

While Fleury struggled for the first time against the Capitals, Vezina Trophy finalist Braden Holtby had his best game of the series, stopping 20 shots. Andre Burakovsky also scored for Washington.

Even though players were loose at the morning skate facing elimination, the nerves were palpable inside the arena even before puck drop. When an early Capitals power play went nowhere and Hagelin made it 1-0 Pittsburgh 10:24 in, it got quiet fast -- except for Penguins fans' derisive chants of "HOLT-BY, HOLT-BY."

Burakovsky pumped some energy back in with a psychologically important goal with 29.7 seconds remaining in the first period, his first of the playoffs. He earned a promotion to the top line because of his strong play in the series but scored back with the third line on a toe drag that bought him space and a shot that froze Fleury.

Hours after defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk bemoaned that ill-timed penalties were hurting the Capitals, a holding call on Nate Schmidt paved the way for another momentum shift as Kessel scored on the power play 4:20 into the second. The Penguins went into the second intermission with a lead having won 37 of 39 games in that spot during the regular season and all six in the playoffs.

It took an individual effort from Backstrom to begin Washington's stunning turnaround. The Capitals' top-line center carried the puck up the ice, executed a give-and-go with Burakovsky and beat Fleury for the tying goal at 2:49 of the third (see full recap).

Turris' OT goal gives Senators 3-2 series lead over Rangers
OTTAWA, Ontario -- Kyle Turris scored 6:28 into overtime to lift the Ottawa Senators to 5-4 victory over the New York Rangers on Saturday for a 3-2 series lead in their Eastern Conference semifinal series.

Derick Brassard tied the score with 1:26 left in the third period for the Senators. Mark Stone, Mike Hoffman and Tom Pyatt also scored and Craig Anderson stopped 29 shots. It was Ottawa's fifth overtime win of the postseason, including a double-overtime victory here against the Rangers in Game 2.

Jesper Fast, Nick Holden, Ryan McDonagh and Jimmy Vesey scored for the Rangers, and Henrik Lundqvist finished with 32 saves.

Michael Grabner appeared to win it for the Rangers less than 5 minutes into overtime, but it was disallowed because his redirection came on a high-stick.

Turris then knocked in the rebound of his own shot through Lundqvist's five-hole to put the Senators one win away from returning to the conference finals for the first time since 2007.

Game 6 is Tuesday night in New York.

Ottawa trailed 2-0 less than 5 1/2 minutes into the game, before scoring three times to take the lead midway through the second period. McDonagh tied it for the Rangers late in the second and Vesey gave them the lead with 7:12 remaining in the third.

With Anderson pulled for an extra skater, Brassard tied it with the puck deflecting in off the back of Rangers defenseman Brandon Smith's right skate (see full recap).

Best of NHL: Jaden Schwartz hat trick lifts Blues over Blackhawks

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AP Images

Best of NHL: Jaden Schwartz hat trick lifts Blues over Blackhawks

ST. LOUIS -- Jaden Schwartz had his third career hat trick to help the St. Louis Blues beat the Chicago Blackhawks 5-2 on Wednesday night.

Schwartz has four goals and six assists this season and has at least one point in six of the Blues' first seven games. It was his 51st career multi-point game and fourth this season.

Vladimir Tarasenko had a goal and an assist, Kyle Brodziak also scored, and Jake Allen made 22 saves. The Blues snapped a two-game losing streak

Duncan Keith and Ryan Hartman had late goals for Blackhawks, and Corey Crawford made 28 saves (see full recap).

Maple Leafs ride big 1st period to win
TORONTO -- Curtis McElhinney made 29 saves in his season debut and the Toronto Maple Leafs scored four times in the first period in a 6-3 victory over the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday night.

Starting in place of Frederik Andersen, McElhinney stopped 14 shots in the third period to hold off the Red Wings.

Nazem Kadri, Zach Hyman, Auston Matthews, Connor Brown, Morgan Rielly and William Nylander scored to help Toronto improve to an NHL-best 6-1-0. The Maple Leafs were coming off a 2-0 victory at Washington on Tuesday night.

Henrik Zetterberg, Tomas Tatar, Jonathan Ericsson scored for the Red Wings, and Nick Jensen had three assists.

Jimmy Howard gave up three goals on four shots before getting yanked in favor of Petr Mrazek late in the first period (see full recap).

How Michal Neuvirth found fresh inspiration in being a dad

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USA Today Images

How Michal Neuvirth found fresh inspiration in being a dad

For the first time in his nine-year career, Michal Neuvirth knows when he gets home at night after a game, there will be someone waiting for him with a smile.

Win or lose, it doesn’t matter to Neuvirth, or especially to his one-month-old daughter, Emily Gudasová Carolina.

“When you come home, there’s a baby waiting and it's such an amazing feeling that someone is waiting for you at home,” Neuvirth said after Tuesday's 5-1 win over Florida. “Last year, I was mostly here by myself, so I definitely like it better having a family with me now.”

Family now consists of his newborn daughter, his fiancee Karolína Gudasová and uncle Radko Gudas, Gudasová’s older brother and Neuvirth’s Flyers teammate.

To those of us on the outside, the responsibility of fatherhood seemingly has altered Neuvirth’s disposition. He smiles more, cracks a few jokes and elaborates just a little more with his answers to the media. Perhaps, he can tolerate us because there’s a deeper purpose and a sense of providing that comes with fatherhood.  

“It’s an amazing feeling being a dad,” Neuvirth said. “For me, I just have another motivation to play for my family now.”

Of course, it also helps I’ve yet to see Neuvirth yawn or show up to practice with bags under his eyes. He has escaped any late-night drama with an eight-day road trip to start the season, and for now, he apparently has a rare lifetime pass for any early morning feedings.  

“I have an amazing fiancee. She takes care of her (Emily) as much as she needs to,” Neuvirth said. “I usually put her to bed at 10-10:30. During the night, Karolina goes and feeds her in the living room, and I’m a deep sleeper, so she doesn’t wake me up.”

As Gudasová has kept an eye on the cradle, Neuvirth has secured the crease. He’s allowed three goals in his two starts this season with a .956 save percentage, which has initiated the debate for more playing time.

Interestingly, adapting to a new addition is something Neuvirth has also discussed with teammate and fellow netminder, Brian Elliott, who went through a similar set of circumstances with his son, Owen, last season in Calgary. Elliott called that first month with the Flames “a huge adjustment” and his October numbers reflected that.

Six games into the season, Neuvirth apparently has it all figured out. 

Of course, a good night’s sleep has a way of bringing clarity to the situation.