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Why beating Marc-Andre Fleury is the key to the series

Why beating Marc-Andre Fleury is the key to the series

If the Capitals have any chance to complete the comeback against the Pittsburgh Penguins, they must find a way to beat Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury.

Heading into Game 5, Washington had managed only nine goals in four games. On, Saturday, however, the offense finally broke through.

The Caps trailed 2-1 heading into the third period, but pierced Fleury for three goals in the final 20 minutes of the game for the 4-2 win. Fleury finished the game with a .875 save percentage, his lowest of the series.

“It takes a little frustration out of your game if you finally crack through a little bit,” Barry Trotz said in a conference call with the media on Sunday. “We were sort of stuck in that two and three goal area and then in a very important moment in the third period obviously in an important game, our guys delivered against him. I think that gives a little boost of confidence for sure.”

RELATED: How Backstrom may have saved the series

That confidence will be important considering the Caps will still need to breakthrough against Fleury twice more in order to advance.

Four goals may not seem like a lot, but it is the most Washington has scored in a game this series. The Caps are 2-0 when they score more than two goals and 0-3 when they do not. Finding a way to get three or more goals against Fleury may be the biggest key to the series going forward.

One difference will be better shot selection.

It’s no secret that Washington has dominated the shot and possession stats through the series. So why are they losing? The play of Fleury is one reason, but let’s be real. As good as Fleury has been, he is not going to get many Jaroslav Halak comparisons. The fact is, the Caps may be getting more shots, but they are not getting enough quality shots from high-danger areas.Too many of their shots have been getting blocked or have been easy saves for Fleury because they are coming from too far out.

Trotz said he wanted the team to show more “poise” when shooting.

“A couple times we got it and we had an opportunity maybe to make a good shot, we just sort of threw it. Just maybe be, I wouldn't say more selective, but more poised with our shots, looking for tips.”

Whatever it will take to beat Fleury, Trotz knows it is up to the Caps to do it because he is not taking Game 5 as a sign that Fleury is wearing down.

“Every game is a game in itself, each one is different,” Trotz said. “I think [Fleury’s] played well through the series and I expect him to continue to play well.”

MORE CAPITALS: Ovechkin backs up Kuznetsov's goal guarantee

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Kuznetsov to be evaluated Saturday after leaving Islanders game with "upper body" issue

Kuznetsov to be evaluated Saturday after leaving Islanders game with "upper body" issue

The Capitals may have won the game Friday against the New York Islanders, but now they will wait to see if they also suffered a significant loss.

Kuznetsov left the game in the third period after taking a slash from Islanders defenseman Thomas Hickey which sent him sliding head-first into the boards. The team labeled the issue as “upper body” when it was announced he would not return to the game.

Head coach Barry Trotz was tight-lipped afterward on Kuznetsov’s status.

“They're going to re-evaluate him tomorrow and we'll have some clarity hopefully tomorrow,” he said.


You can see the play here:

When Kuznetsov is first slashed he immediately reacts. His feet then catch the stick of goalie Jaroslav Halak which sends him tripping and sliding hard into the boards. He sat on the ice for several minutes afterward and was looked at by the trainer before getting to his feet and slowly making his way to the locker room.

When asked after the game what he felt about the slash, Trotz said only, “Hockey play.”

One of the Capitals’ biggest strengths as a team is their depth down the middle. Any injury to a center, considering it is arguably the most important skating position on the ice, would be significant. An injury to the team’s top-line center would be even more costly.

Kuznetsov leads the team with 28 assists and ranks second in both goals (21) and points (69).

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3 stars of the game: Caps win brutal rematch to sweep home-and-home with Islanders

3 stars of the game: Caps win brutal rematch to sweep home-and-home with Islanders

The Caps rocked the green in warmups, the red for the game and left a bit black and blue after a brutal 6-3 win over the New York Islanders.

Based on how things went in Brooklyn on Thursday, odds were that there would be some bad blood when the two teams met Washington on Friday. One night after giving up seven goals, the Islanders gave up another six in Washington and frustrations over a rough season boiled over all game long.

Ross Johnston was ejected for continuing to fight Tom Wilson even after the referees intervened, both teams combined for 56 PIMs and Evgeny Kuznetsov left the game in the second period after a slash from Thomas Hickey as he went headfirst into the boards.

The sting of the rough night was mitigated somewhat, however, by the 6-3 score as the Caps won their fourth straight.

Here are the three stars of the game.

1. Alex Chiasson: Playing in his first game since March 8, Chiasson made the most of his opportunity with a three-point night. Jakub Vrana did the legwork as he drove the net with the puck. Jaroslav Halak stuck out his stick catching Vrana which spun the netminder around and out of the crease. Chiasson came up behind for the easy layup.

He would repay the favor with an assist for Vrana's goal later in the third. Chiasson's first assist on the night came in the second period as his initial shot was saved, but he stayed in the face of Halak long enough to prevent him from making the save on Matt Niskanen's goal.

2. Nicklas Backstrom: When things were getting ugly, Backstrom made the Islanders pay with a power play goal on the two-man advantage.

After Johnston lost his marbles and Cal Clutterbuck was called for interference on Oshie, the Capitals needed to take advantage and put the Islanders away or watch New York build momentum. That was the critical juncture of the game. Backstrom also added an assist on the two-point night.

3. Braden Holtby: The recent struggles of Holtby have been well documented. After yielding the crease to Philipp Grubauer the last four games, Holtby got the start on Friday and played very well in the winning effort. The defense in front of him certainly helped allowing only 13 shots in the first two periods, but the Islanders were buzzing in the third period. New York battled back to make it 5-3 and Mathew Barzal had a breakaway opportunity with a chance to cut the deficit to one. Holtby made the save to deny Barzal and shut the door on the comeback attempt.

In all, Holtby turned aside 22 of the 25 shots he faced.