The Capitals top line was the story in Game 4 and it was again on Saturday in Game 5, but for a very different reason.
In Game 4, the top line could not get anything going offensively as the team had no real replacement for Tom Wilson.
In Game 5, well, they may have found their replacement.
Jakub Vrana scored one goal and two assists to spark a comeback and finish off what would be a dominant 6-3 win.
Here's how the Caps were able to push the Penguins to the brink of elimination.
3 Reasons Why the Capitals Beat the Penguins in Game 5
1. 33 seconds
This certainly had the start of a typical Capitals-Penguins game. Washington led in shots on goal 7-1 to start, but Pittsburgh led on the scoreboard 1-0.
But things turned quickly at the end of the first period. John Carlson struck a shot to the top corner on the power play to tie the game and just 33 seconds later, Brett Connolly fired a shot that deflected off of Patric Hornqvist and bounced its way past goalie Matt Murray.
A game that looked like it was going to be 1-0 at the end of the first was suddenly a 2-1 lead for the Caps.
2. A third-period wakeup
The Caps were in trouble after the second period. In the middle frame, Washington was outshot 18-5, outscored 2-0 and trailed the game 3-2.
Pittsburgh was slowly taking the life out of the Caps and out of the building, but a quick goal to start the third period changed all of that. A miscommunication between Penguins defensemen Brian Dumoulin and Kris Letang led to both players being on the left side of the ice. Evgeny Kuznetsov saw how much room he had and skated up through the middle in the hopes of a pass. Jakub Vrana found him with the pass and Kuznetsov was in behind the defense for the breakaway which he neatly backhanded through the five-hole of Penguins goalie Matt Murray.
That goal woke up the team, woke up the crowd and completely flipped the script on a game that Pittsburgh looked to be firmly in control of.
3. Top line adjustment
Wilson’s three-game suspension left a hole on the top line. In Game 4, Barry Trotz plugged Devante Smith-Pelly into Wilson’s spot at right wing beside Alex Ovechkin and Kuznetsov. It didn’t work. To start Game 5, Trotz put Smith-Pelly again at right wing on the top line and kept that line the same until about halfway through the game. Then he moved Vrana onto the top. The results?
Vrana, who already had an assist in the game, recorded an assist on Kuznetsov’s game-tying goal and then scored the game-winner with less than five minutes remaining. Whether Vrana will be able to handle top line minutes a full game in Pittsburgh where the Penguins will get the matchups they want remains to be seen, but for this night at least, he was the hero and looked to be the perfect complement for Ovechkin and Kuznetsov.
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