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Barry Trotz's line gamble pays off big time in Game 5

Barry Trotz's line gamble pays off big time in Game 5

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."

RELATED: 3 key observations: With season on the line, leaders respond

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.”

MORE CAPITALS: Loss aside, a healthy Crosby is a win for Penguins

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NBC Sports to broadcast 18 Capitals games in 2018-19 season

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NBC Sports

NBC Sports to broadcast 18 Capitals games in 2018-19 season

All eyes will be on the Caps as they begin their quest to defend their Stanley Cup title. Literally.

NBC Sports released its national broadcast schedule for the NHL regular season on Monday and coverage will begin with the Capitals' home-opener on Oct. 3 against the Boston Bruins. The nation will be able to witness Washington raising its first Stanley Cup banner to the rafters on NBCSN.

NBC Sports will present a total of 109 games in 2018-19, the most since acquiring NHL rights before 2005-06 and the Caps will be featured prominently.

Washington will appear eight times on NBCSN's Wednesday Night Hockey, the most of any team in the NHL, and four times on NHL on NBC. NBCSN will also broadcast an additional six games.

All games will be streamed live on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app to authenticated users via TV Everywhere.

Here is the Capitals schedule as released by NBC Sports:

Wed. Oct. 3: Boston at Washington, 7:30 p.m. on NBCSN
Wed. Oct. 10: Vegas at Washington, 8 p.m. on NBCSN
Wed. Oct. 17: N.Y. Rangers at Washington, 7 p.m. on NBCSN
Wed. Nov. 7: Pittsburgh at Washington, 7:30 p.m. on NBCSN
Tues. Dec. 11: Detroit at Washington, 7:30 p.m. on NBCSN
Wed. Dec. 19: Pittsburgh at Washington, 8 p.m. on NBCSN
Fri. Dec. 21: Buffalo at Washington, 7 p.m. on NBCSN
Tues. Jan. 8: Philadelphia at Washington, 7:30 p.m. on NBCSN
Sun. Jan. 20: Washington at Chicago, 12:30 p.m. on NBC
Wed. Jan. 23: Washington at Toronto, 7:30 p.m. on NBCSN
Sun. Feb. 3: Boston at Washington, 12:30 p.m. on NBC
Sun. March 3: Washington at N.Y. Rangers, 12:30 p.m. on NBC
Wed. March 6: Washington at Philadelphia, 7:30 p.m. on NBCSN
Tues. March 12: Washington at Pittsburgh, 7 p.m. on NBCSN
Tues. March 19: Washington at New Jersey, 7:30 p.m. on NBCSN
Wed. March 20: Tampa Bay at Washington, 7:30 p.m. on NBCSN
Sun. March 24: Philadelphia at Washington, 12:30 p.m. on NBC
Tues. March 26: Carolina at Washington, 7 p.m. on NBCSN

NBC Sports Washington remains the home of the Capitals for the 2018-19 season and will broadcast a majority of the team's games for the season including pre and postgame coverage. You can also expect extensive coverage on NBCSportsWashington.com throughout the season.

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Key Caps questions: Who will play on the team's third defensive pair?

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USA TODAY Sports

Key Caps questions: Who will play on the team's third defensive pair?

The dog days of summer are officially here, but it's never too hot to talk some hockey.

Capitals correspondent JJ Regan is here to help you through the offseason doldrums as he discusses key questions facing the Caps for the upcoming season as Washington prepares to defend its title for the first time in franchise history.

Today's question: What will be the team's primary third defensive pairing?

Barring any PTOs or breakout performances in training camp, we can reasonably assume Brooks Orpik, Christian Djoos and Madison Bowey are going to be the three players battling it out to be on the third pair.

General manager Brian MacLellan went through some salary cap gymnastics to get Orpik back for next season at a much smaller cap hit, Djoos played 22 playoff games in the Caps’ Stanley Cup run and Bowey was signed to a one-way, two-year contract for $1 million per year. Clearly, all three are expected to be on the Caps’ roster next season and play a role, but that role will be limited considering the top-four is pretty much set with Michal Kempny-John Carlson and Dmitry Orlov-Matt Niskanen.

Orpik will be 38 years old at the start of the season. His on and off-ice contributions are much greater than many were willing to acknowledge, but he was never a fast player and at his age, holding him to 60 games or fewer will make him a more effective player.

Djoos and Bowey are 24 and 23 respectively and, while both are ready for bigger roles, both are far from finished products. While they may be part of the future of Washington’s blue line, putting in two young, second-year players as their own pair is a risk.

But even if head coach Todd Reirden is not ready to turn the reins over to his two young defensemen just yet, he still needs to get both players plenty of playing time.

This is why Orpik may get a lot more playing time than many people think. The best thing for both Djoos and Bowey is for them to play. If you have concerns about them playing together, however, and neither is ready to supplant anyone in the top four, then you are going to see them cycle in and out of the lineup fairly frequently to play alongside Orpik.

That’s not to say we will never see a Djoos-Bowey pairing this season. They will probably have their chances and the better they look, the longer that pair will last. If they were ready, it would be a safe assumption that they would get the bulk of games together with Orpik serving more of a reserve role.

But a Djoos-Bowey pairing would be too vulnerable to opposing offenses at least at the start of the season and so we should expect a lot of Orpik.

While Reirden will work his defensive magic to bring Djoos-Bowey along as quickly as possible, I would anticipate Orpik-Djoos will see a majority of games this season as the team’s third defensive pairing.

Other key Caps questions: