3 Keys: Islanders vs. Capitals, Game 5 of Eastern First Round

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No. 6 Islanders vs. No. 3 Capitals

8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS, NBCSWA, MSG, MSG+

New York leads best-of-7 series, 3-1

Nicklas Backstrom will again be a game-time decision for the Washington Capitals when they face the New York Islanders in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference First Round at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto on Thursday.

Backstrom (NHL concussion protocol), who participated in the morning skate, was also a game-time decision in Game 4 but ultimately unfit to play when the Capitals avoided elimination in a 3-2 win in Game 4 on Tuesday. The center was injured from a hit by Islanders forward Anders Lee in Game 1.

Washington is attempting to become the fifth team to win a series after trailing 3-0. 

Teams that won the first three games are 191-4 (97.9 percent) winning a best-of-7 Stanley Cup Playoff series; 22 have reached Game 6.

Here are 3 keys to Game 5:

 

1. Build on the win 

The Capitals fell behind 2-0 early in Game 4 but were later able to sustain time in the offensive zone for the first time in the series. They’ll need to put forth a similar effort if they want to avoid elimination again.

“It certainly is no secret that was our best 50 minutes of hockey,” coach Todd Reirden said. “We have to expect a major push from the Islanders tonight. We were able to reset after the first 10 minutes of the first period and we were able to play some of our best hockey and we were able to leave with a win.

“We have to have 60 minutes of that type of play against this team tonight and that’s what the expectation is.”

 

2. Fix the power play

Special teams continue to be an issue for the Islanders, particularly the power play. New York was 0-for-5 with the man-advantage in Game 4 and is 1-for-19 in the series.

“They obviously have a good kill,” Islanders forward Jordan Eberle said. “They come out and block shots; they’ve blocked a ton. They’re aggressive, especially on the entry, we’ve had a tough time getting in. Last game, I thought we had some good looks. The power play, when it’s not going well, the biggest thing is just to simplify it. Try and get, it’s a cliché, but pucks to the net and try and get a secondary opportunity.

“The fact that we had some opportunities is a positive, but obviously in the playoffs, power plays and creating momentum is huge. If we want to finish this series, we’re going to have to be strong in that aspect for sure.”

 

3. Find some balance

Ovechkin, center Evgeny Kuznetsov and forward T.J. Oshie are the only players who have scored for the Capitals in this series. Whether Backstrom can return or not, it’s essential Washington finds a more balanced attack.

“It’s very important,” forward Tom Wilson said. “Obviously when you come into the playoffs, you plan on a long run and you plan on depth playing a role and different guys chipping in. Speaking for myself, I’ve had some chances, obviously. You want to put it in the back of the net, and I think there’s guys in our room that are going to try and work through it here and hopefully chip in and help the team win.”

 

Islanders projected lineup

Anders Lee — Mathew Barzal — Jordan Eberle

Anthony BeauvillierBrock NelsonJosh Bailey

Derick BrassardJean-Gabriel PageauLeo Komarov

Matt MartinCasey CizikasCal Clutterbuck

Adam PelechRyan Pulock

Devon ToewsScott Mayfield

Nick LeddyJohnny Boychuk

Semyon Varlamov

Thomas Greiss

Scratched: Michael Dal Colle, Ross Johnston, Otto Koivula, Tom Kuhnhackl, Andrew Ladd, Sebastian Aho, Noah Dobson, Andy Greene, Thomas Hickey, Christopher Gibson

Unfit to play: None

 

Capitals projected lineup

Alex Ovechkin — Evgeny Kuznetsov — Tom Wilson

Jakub Vrana — Nicklas Backstrom — T.J. Oshie

Carl HagelinLars EllerIlya Kovalchuk

Richard PanikNic DowdGarnet Hathaway

Brenden DillonJohn Carlson

Dmitry OrlovNick Jensen

Jonas SiegenthalerRadko Gudas

Braden Holtby

Vitek Vanecek

Scratched: Travis Boyd, Philippe Maillet, Beck Malenstyn, Connor McMichael, Brian Pinho, Daniel Sprong, Alexander Alexeyev, Michal Kempny, Tyler Lewington, Pheonix Copley

Unfit to play: Martin Fehervary

 

Status report

Islanders coach Barry Trotz said Clutterbuck will be a game-time decision. He did not play in the third period of Game 4 after being hit by Gudas in the second. … Fehervary will miss his second straight game.

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