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A tough Game 5 for Mr. Game 7


A tough Game 5 for Mr. Game 7

There were a handful of reasons the Capitals failed to end the Philadelphia Flyers’ season in Game 5 on Friday night at Verizon Center.

Goaltender Michal Neuvirth was at the top of that list, setting a franchise record for most saves in a playoff regulation win (44) while his team set a franchise playoff record for fewest shots on goal (11).

But there were other reasons the Caps fell 2-0 to the Flyers, forcing a Game 6 in Philadelphia on Sunday (11 a.m. Pregame Live, CSN).

Like the Caps taking most of their 44 shots from the perimeter. And … uh … well … Justin Williams taking eight minutes in penalties and being on the ice for both Flyers’ goals.

Granted, one came 3 seconds after he exited the penalty box and the other was slam-dunked into an empty net with 31 seconds to play. But …

“We can’t go to the penalty box,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. “We took six penalties and I think we deserved every one of them. That’s crazy. We can’t do that. We can’t be undisciplined.

“We were the more disciplined team early in the series and this game we weren’t. We had some veteran players who were careless and got penalized.”

Williams’ nightmarish evening began just 68 seconds into the game when he inadvertently clipped Flyers defenseman Nick Schultz after taking a hit from him along the boards. Williams’ high stick drew blood, giving the Flyers a 4-minute advantage.

The Caps’ penalty killers did an excellent job of shutting down the Flyers’ power play, but were forced to do it again when Williams went off for crashing into Neuvirth with 12:05 gone in the first period.

Again, the Caps killed the penalty, but Marcus Johansson took an uncharacteristic roughing penalty on Colin McDonald early in the second period and Williams took another high-sticking penalty on Claude Giroux at the 5:49 mark to give the Flyers their fourth and fifth power plays of the game.

Technically, the Flyers did not score on Williams’ third penalty of the night, but when White’s rebound shot went off the skate of Taylor Chorney and into the net, Williams had just left the sin bin and was 100 feet from the play.

“He’s an outstanding player and an outstanding leader for us,” Trotz said. “I expect him to be awesome next game. I kept going back to him (22 shifts, 16:23 ice time) because I trust him.

“He didn’t sit on the bench I trusted that he would respond the right way and I expect him to do that.”

Trotz was also unhappy with Jason Chimera’s boarding penalty on Jake Voracek, which came 6:51 into the third period with the Capitals trying to mount a comeback. That comeback fell short because of the outstanding goaltending of Neuvirth, who stopped 14 shots in the first period, 16 in the second and 14 in the third.

Trotz said he’d also like to see more production from his centers, saying, “There are some guys that have been a little quiet in this series and need to do it 5-on-5.”

Through five games, Nicklas Backstrom has one goal and five assists but just two points at even strength; Evgeny Kuznetsov has one power-play goal on 20 total shots and no points at even strength; Mike Richards has no points; and Jay Beagle has two goals, one on the power play and one at even strength.

The Capitals have crushed the Flyers in special teams in this series – they are 8-for-22 while the Flyers are 1-for-21 – but at even strength the two clubs are tied with five goals apiece. Because of that, and the Flyers’ ability to draw more penalties than they’ve taken the past two games, this first-round series has become closer than anyone expected five days ago when the Caps grabbed a 3-0 series lead.

“What we’re learning is they’ve got a resilient team on the other side,” Trotz said. “They’re getting good goaltending; they’re committed; they’re blocking shots (104 through five games) and they came in here and got a goal and we didn’t get any.

“There’s only one stat that matters at the end of the night and that’s what’s on the scoreboard.”

RELATED: Capitals Rewind: Recap Washington's Game 5 loss to Flyers

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Can Tom Wilson be an X-factor for Caps after finding redemption in Game 3?

Can Tom Wilson be an X-factor for Caps after finding redemption in Game 3?

When Mike Babcock essentially dismissed any concern over the impact Tom Wilson could have on a series, Wilson responded. In the first round against the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2017, the Caps' forward scored the overtime winner in Game 1 and saved the series in Game 3 with a sweep of the puck off the goal line followed by a goal of his own soon after.

If you dismissed Wilson after Game 1 and Game 2 against the Columbus Blue Jackets, Barry Trotz believes you can expect a similar answer this year after how he played in Game 3.

"I think his game was really good and that will maybe give some trust and confidence in him going forward," Trotz said Wednesday on a conference call with the media.

Wilson's impact in the first round against Toronto was immediate. As a top-line winger this season, expectations for him were high heading into the playoffs. His start to the series, however, left a lot to be desired.

Through the first two games, Wilson did not record a single shot on goal. What's worse, he took a critical penalty in each game that allowed the Blue Jackets to tie the score on each resulting power play.

You can't compare Wilson's impact on the Caps to that of a player like Alex Ovechkin, but a top-line player has to have some sort of positive impact or, at the very least, not be a detriment to his team.

In Game 3, postseason Tom finally delivered.

Wilson recorded six shots on goal and scored Washington's first goal of the game, deflecting in a shot from Matt Niskanen.

"[Wilson's] taken a lot of criticism for his first two games and some of the penalties and the effect it's had on the game," Trotz said. "I think it's given him some confidence. He's a bright young man, he's a leader, he's an all-in guy."

The key now will be for Wilson to build on that confidence.

Columbus has a number of star players such as Artemi Panarin, Seth Jones and Sergei Bobrovsky. What they do not have, however, is the scoring depth to match the Caps. Getting key contributions from players like Wilson in addition to the top playmakers like Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov will make it very hard for the Blue Jackets to keep up.

"[Wilson] had a big effect last year in the first round," Trotz said. "I think he can have a big effect in this series, in this first round."


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Game 4 Capitals at Blue Jackets Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

Game 4 Capitals at Blue Jackets Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

With a thrilling double-overtime victory in Game 3, the Capitals are right back in the series. Trailing the Columbus Blue Jackets 2-1, the Caps will look to even up the series at 2-games apiece before returning to Washington for Game 5.

As the Caps take the ice for Game 4, you can be certain that Braden Holtby will be the man to lead the team in net. His stellar performance in Game 3 resolidified him as the team' starter and ended whatever goalie tandem there was between him and Philipp Grubauer.

What: Washington Capitals vs. Columbus Blue Jackets, Round 1, Game 4

Where: Nationwide Arena, Columbus, Ohio

When: 7:30 p.m. ET

How to Watch: Capitals-Blue Jackets, Game 4 will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (Channel Finder)

Live Stream: You can watch Capitals-Blue Jackets, Game 4 on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page.


The Capitals take on the Blue Jackets in Game 4 on Thursday, April 19 at 7:30 p.m. ET in Columbus. Columbus currently leads the series 2-1.


Capitals-Blue Jackets, Game 4 will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington. Coverage kicks off with Capitals FaceOff at 6:30 p.m. followed by Caps GameTime at 7:00 p.m. Stay with NBC Sports Washington for Caps Extra following the game, Caps Overtime at 10:30 p.m. and Caps in 30 at 11:30 p.m. for all your postgame coverage. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

6:30 p.m. — Caps FaceOff
7:00 p.m. — Caps GameTime
7:30 p.m. — Capitals at Blue Jackets
10:00 p.m. — Caps Extra
10:30 p.m. — Caps Overtime
11:30 p.m. — Caps in 30


Capitals-Blue Jackets Game 4, as well as Caps GameTime and Caps Extra, is available to stream live here through NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and is available to authenticated NBC Sports Washington subscribers on desktops, tablets, mobile devices and connected TVs anywhere in the United States.


Here are the Caps' projected lines:

Alex Ovechkin - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Tom Wilson
Chandler Stephenson - Nicklas Backstrom - T.J. Oshie
Brett Connolly- Lars Eller - Devante Smith-Pelly
Jakub Vrana -  Jay Beagle - Alex Chiasson

Michal Kempny - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov - Matt Niskanen
Brooks Orpik - Christian Djoos

Braden Holtby with Philipp Grubauer as backup.

Scratches: Travis Boyd, Andre Burakovsky (upper-body), Shane Gerisch, Madison Bowey, Jakub Jerabek


Use the comment section below to discuss the game action with other Capitals fans. 

For all the latest Caps coverage, follow Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir, Capitals correspondent JJ Regan and the NBC Sports Capitals account on Twitter. Be sure check out our Capitals page and NBC Sports Washington's Facebook page.