Down 3-1 in the series against the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Caps needed a spark. Barry Trotz tried to find that spark with a line change that made headlines when it was revealed on Friday. Alex Ovechkin, the greatest goal scorer of his generation, was on the third line. In his spot on the top line was Andre Burakovsky. It was a crazy move that, to some, reeked of desperation.
Following the 4-2 win in Game 5, Barry Trotz had one message for the doubters: How do you like me now?
Okay, so not really, but he was clearly pleased with the results.
“I was hoping to get some scoring out of Burakovsky, we got that tonight,” Trotz said. “Eller had a couple of assists, I thought he was real strong. It was more of our lineup that were getting contributions and that has been the success that we had during the regular season."
Many were skeptical when they saw Ovechkin on the third line, but it worked. The captain had his first goal since Game 1 while Burakovsky had his second career multipoint playoff game and hit the scoresheet for the first time since Game 4…of Washington’s first round series.
Hindsight, however, is 20/20. Getting the players to buy beforehand was no guarantee.
“I talked to [Ovechkin] just saying we need to change it up,” Trotz said. “Top players make people better. … I was looking to try to just give us a little more depth scoring and I said Alex, I'm asking you to go down and go with Lars. It's a big line, they needed some finish.”
It did not take much convincing.
“I don't think it's a matter of who is going to play with and who going to play against each other,” Ovechkin said. “Right now, it's not a good time talk about, well I'm going to play less or I'm going to play more. We're here to get result and we're here to get successful as a team not individual and that's a big part of our success.”
“At this point, it really doesn't matter who you play with, the puck's got to get in,” Nicklas Backstrom said.
It worked in Game 5, but the victory will be short-lived if Washington should lose Game 6 as it would still mean the end of the season.
So what now? Does Trotz ride it out and hope he to see similar results from his new-look lineup in Game 6 or does he make another change to boost the lineup and further confuse the Penguins?
That’s a question Trotz does not yet have the answer to.
“We'll see what we do next game, but I felt that all the lines were going pretty well for us today.”
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