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3 reasons the Caps beat the Penguins in Game 5

3 reasons the Caps beat the Penguins in Game 5

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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Alex Ovechkin reveals the last time he cried and the thing that ticks his wife off about him

Alex Ovechkin reveals the last time he cried and the thing that ticks his wife off about him

Future Hall of Famer Alex Ovechkin joined the people over at Men's Journal recently for a very candid interview regarding his life off of the ice. 

Of the many topics discussed, one that made Ovi smirk a tad was "What do you do that drives your wife crazy?"

"I think the thing my wife Nastasiya hates the most about me is how much I play games on my phone," Ovechkin said. "Clash of Clans, Candy Crush, all of those games. Even before I go to bed I play them."

While this may seem like an addiction to most, Ovi promises it's not -- just some good fun. 

"I'm not addicted, I just like video games," Ovechkin said. "Every time we're away on a road trip I try to get my Xbox with me just to play video games."

While Ovechkin's gaming habits may irritate Nastasiya, he finds time for movie nights (and sometimes cries, sort of). 

"The last time I cried is when we watched the movie, 'The Notebook,'" Ovechkin said. "I wasn't crying-crying, but I look over at my wife and she's crying so I tried to hold it together and think of something else."

Whatever you say Ovi, whatever you say.

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With NHL season paused, a ranking of Capitals' best wins of 2019-20: No. 7

With NHL season paused, a ranking of Capitals' best wins of 2019-20: No. 7

While we wait for the NHL to hopefully resume its season, NBC Sports Washington is looking back at the 20 best wins of the Capitals' season so far. Mark Zaner, producer for Caps Faceoff Live and Caps Overtime Live, has watched every game. His rankings continue with No. 7, a 4-2 win over the Los Angeles Kings on Feb. 4 that featured the most unexpected and perhaps the most amazing hat trick in Alex Ovechkin’s career. 

You can re-watch the game tonight on NBC Sports Washington at 8pm. 

WHAT HAPPENED 

Fresh off a loss to Pittsburgh, the Caps came out completely flat against an inferior Kings team. There was no energy on the ice and there was no energy at Capital One Arena. After tilting the ice in their favor all period, Los Angeles got on the board at the 15:03 mark on a Jeff Carter wrister past Braden Holtby. 

Holtby and John Carlson woke up Washington in the second. Holtby made several critical saves to keep the deficit at one. Carlson erased the Kings lead as he finished off a 3-on-2 rush with a close-range snipe on Jonathan Quick. 

  

The momentum once again shifted towards Los Angeles in the third. Holtby did an outstanding job keeping the Kings off the board until Carter scored his second of the night with less than nine minutes remaining. It looked like it wouldn’t be Washington’s night until this: 

 

 Alex Ovechkin didn’t have a shot on goal for the first 53-plus minutes of the game. His first shot of the night came off a great pass from T.J. Oshie and Ovi beat Quick on the doorstep. Just 70 seconds later Ovechkin struck again. Carlson started the play with a long stretch pass that hit Ovechkin in stride. Quick made the initial stop on Ovechkin’s wrister, but couldn’t find the rebound. While Quick and his defense scrambled, Ovechkin got to the loose puck first and gave the Caps their first lead. 

  

Ovechkin added an empty-net goal a few minutes later for one of the most unlikely natural hat tricks. 

MEMORABLE MOMENTS 

Ready for the Ovechkin statistical smorgasbord? He scored three goals in 4:24 of play. The three goals gave him 14 goals in his last seven games and 16 goals in his last ten. It was his third hat trick in six games. It was his 27th career hat trick which passed Maurice Richard for eighth-most in NHL history. He reached 698 career goals and 40 for the season. He was the first player in 2020 to 40 goals. And at that point, he was on pace for 61 goals on the year. By the way, he’s 34 years old.  

WHY IT WAS SIGNIFICANT 

Aside from Ovechkin, the play of Holtby was the biggest takeaway after the game. Carter beat him twice glove side, but Holtby handled the other 29 shots he faced. Holtby was fresh off a miserable January that had seen Ilya Samsonov get more and more playing time. But instead of growing impatient with their star goalie, the crowd at Capital One Arena got behind him. There were several Holtby chants throughout the second period as Caps fans tried to encourage him out of his slump. 

  

Since his win against the Kings, Holtby is 5-3-2 in ten starts and his save percentage is back over 90%. 

WHAT WE WERE TALKING ABOU

To provide some energy, Tom Wilson went to the corner and tried to pick a fight with the entire Kings lineup after a whistle. None of the Kings took the bait. 

In the “never seen this before” category, Dmitry Orlov’s slap shot was so hard, it knocked the blade off Carl Grundstrom’s skate. 

  

We also had one of the best Mites on Ice celebrations of the season. That was going to be the highlight of the evening until Ovechkin carried the Caps to a win. 

  

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