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Why beating Marc-Andre Fleury is the key to the series

Why beating Marc-Andre Fleury is the key to the series

If the Capitals have any chance to complete the comeback against the Pittsburgh Penguins, they must find a way to beat Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury.

Heading into Game 5, Washington had managed only nine goals in four games. On, Saturday, however, the offense finally broke through.

The Caps trailed 2-1 heading into the third period, but pierced Fleury for three goals in the final 20 minutes of the game for the 4-2 win. Fleury finished the game with a .875 save percentage, his lowest of the series.

“It takes a little frustration out of your game if you finally crack through a little bit,” Barry Trotz said in a conference call with the media on Sunday. “We were sort of stuck in that two and three goal area and then in a very important moment in the third period obviously in an important game, our guys delivered against him. I think that gives a little boost of confidence for sure.”

RELATED: How Backstrom may have saved the series

That confidence will be important considering the Caps will still need to breakthrough against Fleury twice more in order to advance.

Four goals may not seem like a lot, but it is the most Washington has scored in a game this series. The Caps are 2-0 when they score more than two goals and 0-3 when they do not. Finding a way to get three or more goals against Fleury may be the biggest key to the series going forward.

One difference will be better shot selection.

It’s no secret that Washington has dominated the shot and possession stats through the series. So why are they losing? The play of Fleury is one reason, but let’s be real. As good as Fleury has been, he is not going to get many Jaroslav Halak comparisons. The fact is, the Caps may be getting more shots, but they are not getting enough quality shots from high-danger areas.Too many of their shots have been getting blocked or have been easy saves for Fleury because they are coming from too far out.

Trotz said he wanted the team to show more “poise” when shooting.

“A couple times we got it and we had an opportunity maybe to make a good shot, we just sort of threw it. Just maybe be, I wouldn't say more selective, but more poised with our shots, looking for tips.”

Whatever it will take to beat Fleury, Trotz knows it is up to the Caps to do it because he is not taking Game 5 as a sign that Fleury is wearing down.

“Every game is a game in itself, each one is different,” Trotz said. “I think [Fleury’s] played well through the series and I expect him to continue to play well.”

MORE CAPITALS: Ovechkin backs up Kuznetsov's goal guarantee

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Flyers continue their dominance over the Capitals in round robin win

Flyers continue their dominance over the Capitals in round robin win

The Philadelphia Flyers had the Capitals' number in the regular season and that carried over to the postseason even five months later. Travis Boyd scored the Caps' lone goal in a lackluster performance as they fell 3-1 to the Flyers on Thursday. The loss means Washington will finish third or fourth in the round robin.

Here's why the Caps lost.

Too many penalties

Washington did not give up a single power play in the first round robin game against Tamap Bay. The team certainly made up for lost time on Thursday with a parade to the penalty box. The Caps faced six power plays all through the first two periods. This was not just a case of referees calling the game tight, these were blatant, obvious, bone-headed penalties.

The penalty kill was actually very good and finished perfect on the day, killing off all six power plays. That's good, but the effect of taking so many penalties was evident. Washington was chasing the play, the offense had no rhythm and no momentum.

On Monday, a T.J. Oshie fight sparked the team to rally from a two-goal deficit. On Thursday, the team was playing physically, but it was just reckless and completely took them out of their game.

RELATED: ALL OF THE ROUND ROBIN SCENARIOS TIED TO CAPITALS VS. FLYERS

Faceoffs

You can't score if you don't have the puck. Metrics like Corsi are used to measure possession and in that category Washington broke even at 50-percent. But in another possession metric, Washington was blitzed: The faceoff.

When a team wins a faceoff, they begin the play with possession and Philadelphia got the better of the Caps by a wide margin, winning 67-percent of the faceoffs.

The Flyers were the best faceoff team through the regular season and that was evident on Thursday as they dominated the Caps at the dot.

A bad turnover

Radko Gudas will want this one back. With the puck on his stick behind the goal line, Gudas put on the brakes to shake off the pressure from Travis Konecny. Konecny skated by, but Gudas put the puck on his backhand and tried to pass it through Kevin Hayes who easily picked it off along the boards. Suddenly the Caps were out of position and Konecny was wide open in front of the net. He took the pass, delivered a pretty no-look spin pass behind him to Scott Laughton for the slam dunk.

Nicklas Backstrom clipped the skate of Braden Holtby on the play, not allowing Holtby the chance to stretch out for the save attempt on Laughton, but frankly, he was not going to get there anyway.

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The Flyers' movement

Philadelphia generated a lot of room in the offensive zone with the constant movement of its forwards. This seems obvious -- it's hockey, after all -- but the Caps' defense could not keep up.

Hayes had all eyes on him as he stickhandled around in Washington's defensive zone. He battled with Jonas Siegenthaler in the corner, then retreated to the top of the circle, closely followed by Siegenthaler. Dmitry Orlov drifted up and to the left, Siegenthaler's side, as Hayes continued to stickhandle. That left room for Travis Sanheim who skated in behind the right side of the defense. Hayes found him and he beat Holtby one-on-one for Philadelphia's second goal.

In the third period, Orlov went behind the net after Travis Konecny who passed it off to Hayes. Siegenthaler went after Hayes while Konecny stopped behind the net. As Hayes stickhandled on the right, Laughton charged in from the left where there was no defense to be found. Kuznetsov recognized the net was open and parked in front, but was too far up. Laughton put the puck into the net before Kuznetsov or either of the two defensemen could even react.

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All of the round robin scenarios tied to Capitals vs. Flyers

All of the round robin scenarios tied to Capitals vs. Flyers

If you're a Capitals fan, you may be tired of hearing about how these round robin games "matter." With the other teams playing actual playoff series, it's hard to view the round robin games the same way. While there may not be as much on the line Thursday for the Caps and the Philadelphia Flyers (4 p.m., NBC Sports Washington) as there is in the qualification series, that doesn't mean Thursday's game doesn't matter. With only three round robin games, there is a lot riding on this game.

Here are the standings heading in:

Tampa Bay 4 points (2 games played)
Philadelphia 2 points (1 game played)
Washington 1 point (1 game played)
Boston 0 points (2 games played)

With that in mind, here are all the possible scenarios for the Caps in Thursday's game.

If the Caps win in regulation...

Washington will finish ahead of Boston, but can still finish in first, second or third overall. The Caps will finish in first if they beat Boston on Sunday AND Tampa Bay loses in regulation to Philadelphia on Saturday.

If the Caps win in overtime or a shootout...

The scenario is exactly the same as above. Washington will finish ahead of Boston, but can still finish in first, second or third overall. The Caps will finish in first if they beat Boston on Sunday AND Tampa Bay loses in regulation to Philadelphia on Saturday.

It doesn't matter if the win is in regulation, overtime or a shootout. Just win baby.

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If the Caps lose in overtime or a shootout...

Washington could finish in second, third or fourth place, but will be out of the running for first. The Caps will earn second place if they beat Boston in the round robin finale AND Philadelphia loses in regulation to Tampa Bay on Saturday.

If the Caps lose in regulation...

The highest Washington could finish is in third place. The winner of Sunday's Boston-Washington game will determine who is in third and who is fourth.

Stay connected to the Capitals with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.

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