RUSSELL: Capitals turn back tide in Game 5

Chris Russell
April 21, 2019 - 1:35 am
Capitals punish Hurricanes are one win away from 2nd round.

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

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From minute one to when the final seconds ticked off the scoreboard here at Capital One Arena, it was complete domination by the defending Stanley Cup champions.

The Caps won Game 5 of their opening round series with the Carolina Hurricanes, 6-0, to take a 3-2 series lead.

With a win on Monday night in Raleigh, the Capitals advance to the second round and a zesty matchup against their former head coach, Barry Trotz, and the New York Islanders.

Nick Backstrom scored two more goals, his fourth and fifth of the series, and was joined on the score sheet by Brett Connolly, Alex Ovechkin, Tom Wilson and Nic Dowd, who joined the party on a penalty shot.

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Braden Holtby made 30 saves in posting his sixth straight playoff win at home. That streak dates back to an almost equally dominant performance, a game six win in the Eastern Finals over Tampa Bay last year. And grabbed his seventh career playoff shutout.

Now for our "5 Stars" of the win - a look at individuals or units that made the difference for Washington. 

1. Nick Backstrom: On his first goal of the night, off a beautiful backhand feed from John Carlson who received the puck off a rush from Wilson up the left side of the ice, Backstrom slammed home the puck after initially being stopped. The move started with a steal by Ovechkin in the Caps' defensive zone that ignited the transition to offense.

Backstrom's 2nd goal was a top-shelf snipe off a great rush by Ovechkin to make it 2-0 in the 2nd period. This was after the Caps had killed off three Carolina power plays in the period. 

Backstrom added two assists for good measure and finished +1 and split his face-offs on the night, in which he took 24 draws. 

2. Alex Ovechkin: Yes he scored a goal, his third of the series on a power play to make it 6-0, but he makes this list because he collected two turnovers by Carolina, spurred both Backstrom goals, and then out-hustled Dougie Hamilton to a puck to the right of Petr Mrazek before tossing a most impressive feed to Connolly for another assist.

Or maybe it was the team-leading 11 hits? One of which was a message to Warren Foegele, who knocked T.J. Oshie out of the series and likely the remainder of the playoffs, with what is reportedly a broken collarbone. 

3. Devante Smith-Pelly: His addition to the Caps lineup after a stint in Hershey was an injection of life into what was looking like an old and stale bunch. Smith-Pelly was a +1, played 10:43 and had five hits. 

He helped ignite a forecheck that had been missing and line-mates Chandler Stephenson and Dowd fed off of his energy to have their best games of the series. Dowd scored on a penalty shot after hitting the post on the break-in attempt and Stephenson played 1:02 short-handed with a couple of hits and two takeaways. 

Dowd told reporters after the game, "I think we drew a lot from Devo being here. His first couple shifts, he got the crowd into it." 

4. Penalty Kill: The Capitals shut down the Hurricanes during a key sequence in the 2nd period when they couldn't stay out of the box. Evgeny Kuznetsov,  Carlson and Jonas Siegenthaler were all sent off and the Caps scored seconds after the third penalty was done. 

Carolina only had six shots on their power play opportunities, spanning 9:01 of the game. 

Lars Eller, Wilson, Carl Hagelin and Dowd were the primary forwards responsible along with the defense and Holtby, who made a few key stops. 

5. Todd Reirden: Give the Caps first-year head coach credit. He's been criticized over the course of the season and series, but everything worked brilliantly on Saturday night. He insisted that his team had a much higher level and they did. He said the Caps needed to forecheck better and they more than did that. He said his best players needed to shine and they kicked ass. 

Also, Reirden kept Backstrom and Ovechkin together when he could have tried to ignite Kuznetsov's inconsistent performance. Instead, he paired Kuznetsov with speedsters Hagelin and Jakub Vrana and they blanked Carolina's top line while having plenty of jump and some great chances. 

Also, Reirden put rookie defenseman Siegenthaler with veteran Carlson on the top pair of defense and that decision was very effective. It allowed everyone to settle into a role and develop some chemistry, elsewhere on the back end.

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