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With Andre Burakovsky injured, Alex Chiasson appears to be the 'next man up'

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With Andre Burakovsky injured, Alex Chiasson appears to be the 'next man up'

The injury to Andre Burakovsky will force some line shuffling from Barry Trotz and a new player to step into the top six. For now, it appears the 'next man up' will be Alex Chiasson.

Based on practice, Tom Wilson will remain with Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie, Jakub Vrana moves from the second line to the third and Chiasson steps onto the second line alongside Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov.

Chiasson seems a curious choice considering he has managed only one point in his first eight games with the Capitals. Plus, he spent most of the summer unsure of whether he would even have an NHL job this season and was originally signed to the Caps on a professional tryout.

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But Chiasson’s history and work ethic has caught Barry Trotz's eye.

“Last year I played with [Johnny Gaudreau] and [Sean Monahan] for good amount of time in Calgary,” Chiasson said Tuesday. “Different types of players, but there's a lot of similarities between those guys and these guys here.”

“He's played with some skill guys and I just think he works at his game and from that standpoint I think it's real important that you reward those guys who keep working on their game,” Trotz said of Chiasson after Monday’s practice.

Wait, what? The Caps are promoting a player to the Ovechkin and Kuznetsov line as a “reward?” They’re 4-4-1, can they afford to hand out spots in the top-six as rewards?

You can if that player understands and embraces the role he is expected to play on that line.

“I know what those guys like, they like a guy in front of the net for chances,” Chiasson said. “They do love the puck in the offensive zone as much as they can so I'm going to try my best to get those retrievals for them and be more than a one and done type offensive line.”

Chiasson won’t be expected to produce at the same rate as an Ovechkin and Kuznetsov. He won’t be expected to dazzle with amazing passes to set up beautiful goals or deke defensemen out of their skates. His job will be to get in front of the net, battle for pucks in the dirty areas and make sure the team keeps possession for as long as possible when his line is out on the ice. The more times he retrieves the puck, the more opportunities Ovechkin and Kuznetsov will have to score.

“First of all, net-front presence is a big thing and then second thing is retrievals,” Chiasson said. “There's an opportunity, I've got to be first on the puck for a rebound or things like that and get on the forecheck and get those pucks for those guys. That's what these guys want.”

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Obviously, Chiasson is not going to be the offensive focal point of that line, but he also knows he always needs to be ready for the puck when Kuznetsov is on the ice. He compared Kuznetsov’s vision to that of Erik Karlsson whom he played with for two seasons while with the Ottawa Senators.

“Karl was the type of guy that you had to be ready. You would think he didn’t see you, but he knew exactly where you were. There's only a few players like that in the league. I think Kuzy's one of them here. But definitely you've got to be aware of everything that's going on on the ice.”

“I wish I had that vision and the things that he does,” Chiasson added. “I don't think you've got to be scared with that, you've just got to go and enjoy it and make the best out of it.”

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How Nicklas Backstrom saved the Capitals 3 different times in Game 5

How Nicklas Backstrom saved the Capitals 3 different times in Game 5

The Capitals found themselves in deep trouble on Saturday.

Game 5 at Capital One Arena provided Washington a golden opportunity to take a 3-2 lead in their 2018 Stanley Cup Playoff first-round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets. A loss -- another home loss -- would have been a devastating blow.

After battling back from a 2-0 series deficit, to lose in Washington would mean facing elimination in Columbus. Game 5 was the game the Caps needed and it would have slipped away from them if not for Nicklas Backstrom.

The Caps’ most underrated superstar -- the one who is constantly overshadowed by the likes of Alex Ovechkin and Braden Holtby -- took center stage on Saturday as he tipped a Dmitry Orlov shot past Sergei Bobrovsky at 11:53 of overtime to seal the victory for Washington.

“It was just a good shot from [Orlov],” Backstrom said after the game. “I thought before he had a chance to block it, and I got a tip on it, and it’s usually what happens in the playoffs. Tip goals or rebound goals. That’s the way it is. It was nice.”

Backstrom’s overtime goal capped off a three-point night for the veteran center, who also scored in the first period and assisted on a goal from T.J. Oshie.

The team ended up needing every one of his points.

From the start, Columbus outplayed Washington. With the series tied 2-2, a best-of-three mentality took over and the Blue Jackets pushed hard for the pivotal Game 5 win.

It is in those very moments that team needs its superstar players to step up. In Game 3, it was Holtby who stole the show to help Washington steal a win in Columbus.

On Saturday, it was Backstrom.

Columbus converted a shorthanded goal to seize a 1-0 lead in what was shaping up to be a dominant first period. A fluke goal from Backstrom, however, made sure the score was knotted up, 1-1, after the opening frame.

With the puck behind the goal line, Backstrom tried to slip a pass through the crease. Bobrovsky got a piece of the puck with his stick, but the amount of spin on the pass forced the puck to carom off the stick, off the back of Bobrovsky himself, and into the net.

“I was trying to make a pass,” Backstrom said. “Honestly, got lucky. I don’t know who came back-door there but I was trying for him. I’ll take it.”

After a back and forth game, the Blue Jackets came out swinging to start the third. Down 3-2, Columbus tied the game just 2:30 in and made a real push to win the game in regulation. Washington was outshot 16-1 in the third and looked like they had no push at all.

But the Caps looked like a different team when they took the ice for the extra frame. What happened in between periods?

“As I was leaving the room after the period, I could hear guys, the right guys, all saying the right things,” head coach Barry Trotz said.

When later asked if one of those guys was Backstrom, Trotz said, “Absolutely. He's one of the leaders on our team. They were all talking about let's make sure we're doing the right things. There's a lot of pride, lot of good leadership in that room.”

Whatever Backstrom and the other leaders said did the trick. Washington made a strong push in overtime leading to Backstrom’s game-winning goal.

This isn’t the first time Backstrom has delivered. Saturday’s overtime tally is the fourth of his career. That’s the most in franchise history and tied for fifth in NHL history.

Through his efforts on the ice, the Caps were able to erase a bad first period and steal the win in overtime. But it also took a big effort off the ice to get the job done.

“If you just look at the scoresheet, that doesn't say enough of about Nick Backstrom, his contribution from in the dressing room to on the ice to key moments to key faceoffs,” Trotz said.

“I've been on his soapbox about how complete a player he is and I never really worry about Nick Backstrom. He's got enough games under his belt, he's got enough stats to back it up and he's played huge minutes and he's one of our leaders. He's a tremendous hockey player.”

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John Tortorella guarantees series will return to Washington for Game 7

John Tortorella guarantees series will return to Washington for Game 7

After losing Game 1 and Game 2 at home, Alex Ovechkin declared "It’s going to be fun when we bounce back and going to tie the series and come back here and play Game 5 at home.”

Columbus Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella seems to be taking a similar tactic.

The Capitals won Game 5 in overtime on Saturday in a game that could prove to be emotionally draining for the Blue Jackets in a number of ways.

  • It was Washington's third straight win
  • Columbus was the better team for the majority of the game, but still took the loss
  • The Blue Jackets now face elimination despite holding a 2-0 series lead to start and losing only once in regulation

Tortorella has become famous for his fiery postgame press conferences in the past, including abruptly walking out after Game 4's presser when he declared "We sucked" to the media.

Saturday's was another fun one.

In a presser that lasted less than two minutes, Tortorella twice said, "We'll be back here for Game 7."

After such a draining game, Tortorella was asked how he would get them ready for what is sure to be an emotionally charged Game 6.

"I won't have to say a damn word to them," Tortorella said. "No. We'll be back here for Game 7."

The Blue Jackets will have to win Game 6 in Columbus to make that happen.

Barry Trotz was asked for his reaction after Tortorella's comments.

"What else are you going to say? That's good. He wants to get it out there, he believes in his team just as I believe in my team. It's our job for that not to happen."

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