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With a Game 5 win, the Caps will claim the Cup... and match an impressive record

With a Game 5 win, the Caps will claim the Cup... and match an impressive record

LAS VEGAS — The Caps have been historically good on the road in these playoffs.

So good, in fact, they can match the NHL’s all-time record for road wins in a single postseason Thursday night with a victory over the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 5. (A win, of course, would also give Washington its first Stanley Cup.)

Alex Ovechkin and Co. are currently 9-3 away from home this spring.

If they get road win No. 10, here are the teams they’ll join, per NBC’s NHL research team:

  • 2012 Kings. They went 10-1, won the Cup.
  • 2004 Flames. They went 10-4, lost in Game 7 to Tampa Bay.
  • 2000 Devils. They went 10-2, won the Cup.
  • 1995 Devils. They went 10-1, won the Cup.

The Capitals’ success away from F Street has been a storyline throughout the postseason, even though players and Coach Barry Trotz alike have been at a loss to explain exactly why it’s been happening.

Their explanations have ranged from the group adopting an ‘us-against-the-world’ mentality to the team’s tendency to play a more simplified brand of hockey on the road.

Whatever the reason, it’s been working and it’s got the Caps on the verge something truly special.

One more number to consider ahead of Game 5: Washington has ended all three of the previous series this spring on the road.

Can the Caps do to the Golden Knights what they've already done to the Blue Jackets, Penguins and Lightning?

“They’re great in their building,” Coach Barry Trotz said of Vegas after Game 4. “We’re not scared of their building. We’ve proved it: we’re very good on the road.” 

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Capitals vs. Canadiens: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream, How to Watch

Capitals vs. Canadiens: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream, How to Watch

When the Capitals welcome the Canadiens to Capital One Arena on Thursday night, there are two stretches fans hope they see come to an end. 

Alex Ovechkin has been stuck on the cusp of joining the 700-goal club for five games now. The drought is Ovechkin's longest since December 2018. As a team, Washington has lost four of its last five games and find the Penguins suddenly challenging for the top spot in the Metropolitan division. 

The Capitals will look to avoid a three-game losing streak against a Montreal team that finds itself in a rough stretch of its own. Washington hasn't suffered a three-game skid since October, when head coach Todd Reirden's squad dropped its first two games at home before a road loss. 

Montreal desperately needs a victory to get back on track and keep its waning playoff hopes alive. The Canadiens did receive good news when Shea Weber returned to practice Monday after it was initially believed an ankle injury the defenseman suffered on Feb. 4 would keep him out for at least four to six weeks.

Here's everything you need to know for the matchup. 

CAPITALS-CANADIENS GAME 60: HOW TO WATCH

What: Washington Capitals vs. Montreal Canadiens

Where: Capital One Arena, Washington D.C.

When: Thursday, Feb. 20, 7 p.m. ET

TV Channel: Capitals-Canadiens game will be broadcast on NBC Sports. (NBC Sports Channel Finder)

Live Stream: You can watch the Capitals-Canadiens on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page

Radio: Caps Radio 24/7

CAPITALS-CANADIENS TV SCHEDULE:

6:00 PM: Caps Faceoff Live

6:30 PM: Caps Pregame Live

7:00 PM: Capitals vs. Canadiens (LIVE)

9:30 PM: Caps Postgame Live

10:00 PM: D.C. Sports Live

10:30 PM: Caps Overtime Live

CAPITALS-CANADIENS INJURY REPORT:

Capitals:

C Evgeny Kuznetsov, upper-body injury, day-to-day

Canadiens:

RW Paul Byron, knee injury, day-to-day

D Shea Weber, sprained ankle, day-to-day

C Nate Thompson, illness, day-to-day

RW Brendan Gallagher, lower-body injury, day-to-day

CAPITALS VS. CANADIENS PLAYERS TO WATCH:

Alex Ovechkin, LW, Capitals (40 goals, 17 assists, 57 points)

Ovechkin returns home for his quest for 700 career goals and looks to reach the milestone on home ice. Washington's captain is now on a five-game scoreless drought, his longest since December 2018 when he had six consecutive outings without finding the back of the net.

T.J. Oshie, RW, Capitals (24 goals, 20 assists, 44 points)

Oshie scored two goals in the third period of Washington's 3-2 loss to the Golden Knights on Monday when the comeback effort fell just short. In his last five games, Oshie has scored five goals and dished out one assist. 

Tomas Tatar, C, Canadiens (21 goals, 32 assists, 53 points)

Tatar has proved to be the Canadiens' top option on the offensive end as he leads Montreal in goals, assists, points and power-play goals. During his 10-year career, Tatar has also performed well against the Capitals, posting seven goals and nine assists in 19 career games against Washington. 

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Great recognizes great: Phil Esposito explains why Ovechkin is such a dominant scorer

Great recognizes great: Phil Esposito explains why Ovechkin is such a dominant scorer

Phil Esposito knows a thing or two about scoring goals. He’s one of the best of all-time at it. During his 18-year NHL career, he scored 717 career goals which ranks sixth in NHL history...for now. Alex Ovechkin is two goals away from joining Esposito as a member of the 700-goal club and could end up passing him by the end of the season.

Esposito may be from a different era, but he still knows a great goal-scorer when he sees one.

“Well, let me put it this way,” Esposito said. “I don’t give a [expletive] what era it would be. Alex Ovechkin would be still scoring goals, in any era, anywhere.”

A lot of goal-scorers have come and gone without finding nearly the same amount of success as Ovechkin. We all know how great a shot he has, but Esposito recognizes the other qualities that he believes sets Ovechkin apart.

“His positioning and his ability to put the puck on the net all the time,” Esposito said. “If you go back in history through all the guys who scored 700, they usually hit the net a lot. I think that Alex is one of those guys who puts it on the net and puts the onus on the goaltender.”

“To me, it didn’t matter how hard I shot the puck, it’s where I put it,” he added. “If I put it in a location going 50 mph, the goalie couldn’t move his feet fast enough to stop it. … Ovechkin can hit those spots when he has that extra second. But if he doesn’t have that extra second, he makes sure he gets it on the net and that’s the key to scoring goals. Putting it on the net.”

One of the most impressive aspects of Ovechkin’s goal-scoring prowess is that it is coming in an era in which it has become incredibly difficult to score. Esposito noted, “Never underestimate the people who are blocking the shots nowadays, as compared to my day.”

“The way the game is played nowadays and the way the guys get in the [shooting] lanes, and they block shots, sometimes you’ve got to pass it,” Esposito said. “Man, I’d venture to say that without the blocked shots and everything else, like the way it was in the ‘70s, Alex would get more than 550 shots on net. And probably score 75 to 80 goals.”

As Ovechkin’s career has continued, his remarkable ability to stay healthy has become as much of a reason for him climbing the all-time goals list as his goals are. Despite all the talent around the league, no other player in the NHL has even reached 600 goals. Ovechkin's durability becomes all the more impressive with every passing year.

“He’s a monster and he’s very strong,” Esposito said. “Secondly, he’s played with some pain, I’ll guarantee that. And that’s another thing, he plays with the pain. He doesn’t complain about it. He’ll go out and he’ll play.”

Ovechkin has already carved a place for himself in history among the greatest goal-scorers of all-time. That’s not in doubt. But as he sits ever so close to reaching 700 at the age of 34, the answer now on everyone’s mind is can he keep it up?

While 34 is old for most hockey players, age does not seem to be much of a factor for Ovechkin who is one of just three players with 40 goals this season. Considering the rate at which Ovechkin has continued to score, this has led some to wonder if Wayne Gretzky’s record of 894 goals could be in play.

For many reaching 700 will be the last great milestone of their career, but for Ovechkin, it could just be the unofficial proclamation that he is coming for Gretzky’s record.

But if he is going to beat the record, Esposito thinks he is going to need help.

“Stay with the Washington Capitals,” Esposito said. “Stay with a good team. Trust me, I went through that. When I was traded from Boston to [the New York Rangers], New York was a bad team and I certainly didn’t score like I did in Boston, which was a great team. You don’t do it alone in the NHL. You don’t. You’d better have good teammates with you if you’re going to be a good scorer.”

Ovechkin has certainly had that in his time in Washington and will continue to have it after Nicklas Backstrom signed a new five-year deal to stay with the team.

And Ovechkin is going to need all the help he can get to reach Gretzky’s record which was long thought to be untouchable.

Until he does, however, as great as he may be, he won’t be the greatest at least according to Esposito.

“I’m not going to say he’s the best of all time,” Esposito said. “Wayne is. Wayne’s No. 1. It’s simple. When I retired, I was No. 2, [Gordie Howe] was the best. And so until you beat the best, you’re not the best. Period.”

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