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Game 5 Recap: Vranamatopoeia Means Victory, Capitals Drop Penguins 6-3 to Force Elimination

The Washington Capitals came all the way back on Saturday night, riding what-took-you-so-long play from Jakub Vrana to send Game 6 back to Pittsburgh with a chance to advance.

Pittsburgh Penguins v Washington Capitals - Game Five Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

HOOO-WEEEE! Have you caught your breath yet? Game 5 on Saturday night was a wild one in DC!

Let’s get into it!

Here’s Saturday night’s Plus/Minus:

Plus: The Washington Capitals are one win away from advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals.

Minus: Devante Smith-Pelly struggled mightily on the top line, as did Washington’s offense most of the night. Shouts out to Braden Holtby for STEALING this game for the Capitals.

And now, this...

Ten more notes on the game:

1. After dropping Game 4 in Pittsburgh on a goal-line trickler and an empty-netter, the series returned to Washington tied. Could the Capitals win Game 5 and force the Penguins to the brink at Capital One Arena Saturday night?

2. If they did, they would have to do it without wingers Tom Wilson and Andre Burakovsky. Willy, you’ll remember, served the second game of his three-game suspension Saturday for....well, hurting, basically, Pittsburgh’s Zach Aston-Reese in Game 3, and Burakovsky is still out with an injury suffered in the first round against Columbus. With two of their Top Six out, who would be the hero for Washington?

3. Speaking of Top Line thermodynamics, coach Barry Trotz decided to keep winger Devante Smith-Pelly on the top trio with Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov to start Game 5. After an all-around ineffective and unremarkable Game 4 in which Ovechkin recorded zero shots on goal, the Capitals Blogosphere was understandably perplexed and flummoxed at this decision. Would it work out for Trotz and the Caps?

4. The first period got off to a pyrotechnic start, and we had ourselves a barnburner from the get-go in DC. The two clubs traded 26 shots in the first frame alone. The Penguins got on the board first, as defenseman Jamie Oleksiak popped a one-timer from the point that slipped past a screening Conor Sheary and a helpless Braden Holtby to give Pittsburgh the 1-0 lead.

5. Washington would wait until the final 100 seconds of the period, but they struck back like the disgruntled Empire. On a power play, Captain America and new dad John Carlson boomed a slapper from the point that dented the twine like fine wine and tied this one for the Capitals 1-1.

6. And just 33 seconds later, the Capitals do-si-do’d again. This time, Brett Connolly, AKA Brett The Threat, AKA The Con Man, walked into the slot like he pays rent there, took his time, and slung a sneaky snipe past goalie Matt Murray to give Washington a 2-1 lead at the first break.

7. But in the second period, the Penguins came crashing down like le deluge. After a fairly even first period, Pittsburgh threw everything but the kitchen mustard cistern at the Caps, recording 18 shots in the second frame to Washington’s 5. Finally, with Alex Ovechkin in the penalty box for a questionable slashing call, Phil Kessel fired a shot from the circle that Sidney Crosby deflected down and in to tie it 2-2.

8. Then, mere minutes later, with Devante Smith-Pelly in the box for an even worse tripping call, Patric Hornqvist gave Pittsburgh their second lead of the night. Posted in the corner of the crease, Hornqvist took several whacks at a loose puck without any intervention from Brooks Orpik before chopping it in to make it 3-2 Pens at the second horn.

9. But in the third period, Washington came roaring back. With Jakub Vrana swapped during the intermission with Smith-Pelly on the first line, he paid dividends immediately. In the first minute of the third, Vrana found a streaking Evgeny Kuznetsov. Kuzy hit the three-wheel motion and slipped the puck through Murray’s gaping five-hole to knot the game at 3-3.

10. AND WITH JUST FOUR MINUTES REMAINING, rookie wunderkind Jakub Vrana scored the game-winning goal to stake the Caps to a 4-3 lead! Two empty-netters from T.J. Oshie and Lars Eller sent Washington home 6-3 winners!

With Game 6 back in Pittsburgh and the Penguins facing elimination, the Capitals will have a chance to prove their mettle to the world.

Game highlights: