The Stanley Cup playoffs shifted back to the Nation’s Capital on Saturday night, as the Capitals hosted the Hurricanes in a Game 5 to determine who would totter on the precipice of disaster, and who would be but a breath from second-round glory.
Sound like fun? Let’s get into it!
Here’s Saturday night’s Plus/Minus:
Plus: The Washington Capitals are one win away from advancing to the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Minus: TJ Oshie will not be along for the ride. More on that below.
And now, this...
There it is boys and girls and babes. The Champ is here. pic.twitter.com/CX6vZIm1PW— Jason Rogers (@HeyJayJRogers) April 21, 2019
Ten more notes on the game:
1. With the series now tied up 2-2 and returning back to Washington, could the Capitals get back in the win column, keep the streak of home team victories going, and push Carolina to the brink of elimination?
2. If they would, they would have to do it without winger and bona fide American hero T.J. Oshie. Oshie was slaughtered like prime veal in Game 4 by Warren Foegele, who pushed him into the boards hard, and is almost certainly out for the remainder of the postseason. Could the Caps avenge their Captain America?
3. One welcome face who would be back to help them try was Stanley Cup hero Devante Smith-Pelly. DSP was recalled from Hershey with Oshie out, and took his rightful place back on the fourth-line with Nic Dowd and Chandler Stephenson. The DC faithful were ecstatic to have their beloved favorite back in the lineup.
Big cheer here at Capital One as they show footage of DSP from practice on the jumbotron.— Jason Rogers (@HeyJayJRogers) April 21, 2019
The LET'S GO CAPS chant has been replaced with D-S-P. Unreal.— Jason Rogers (@HeyJayJRogers) April 21, 2019
4. The Capitals would defend home ice early, often, and thoroughly in Game 5. Just 8 minutes into the bash, the Capitals’ power play made mincemeat out of the Hurricanes penalty kill. Nicklas Backstrom, Savagely Suave Swede, punished the Canes, following-up his own rebound and stashing the biscuit past Petr Mrazek to make it 1-0 Caps after one period.
5. The second period was Hurricane season. And the Capitals’ penalty kill was the rebar-reinforced bulkhead. The Caps PK was called into action three consecutive times, and after successfully killing off all three, Washington punched back with a counter-haymaker.
6. Just a minute after the massive PK-induced momentum swing, Alex Ovechkin found his buddy Slick Nick Backstrom streaking down the center of the ice. Ovi found Nicky, que sera sera, and the Caps were up 2-0 on the Canes.
Backstrom, who has 5 goals in 5 games this series, appeared as lighthearted and loose as I’ve ever seen him in the locker room after the game as he talked with the media.
7. But the Caps weren’t done twisting the second period Momentum Knife™. With just three minutes left in the frame, Dougie Hamilton heard Alex Oveckin’s big ol’ footsteps coming in the corner, and like an asthmatic, decided he did not want that smoke. Ovechkin stole the puck, turned, and found Brett Connolly crashing the net. Brett The Threat slung it home, and the Capitals headed into the final intermission up 3-0.
8. And unlike so many Capitals Games Past, Washington would not let its foot off the pedal in the third period. In fact, they smashed the pedal clear through the firewall. Just one minute in and on the man advantage, Tom Wilson swept a loose puck in the crease into the net, putting the Caps up by quattro, 4-0.
9. And while Capitals fans were probably still cheering, Nic Dowd was awarded a penalty shot, which he stuffed through Mrazek’s five-hole with the paralyzing aplomb of vintage Matt Hendricks, extending the Caps’ lead to five, 5-0.
10. To cap off the statement win, the Capitals’ power play unit would then win a face-off straight back and across to Ovechkin, who slammed the one-timer like you slam the microwave door, hard and hungrily, and set the final score at 6-0 Caps.
“I think it was an important game for both teams. Since the drop of the puck, we don’t want to give them any chance,” Ovechkin said in the locker room after the game, channeling his best Ivan Drago.
Braden Holtby was beastly and stellar like Ursa Major. He pitched a shutout, recorded 30 saves, and refused to give Carolina any spark of optimism to let them back into this game.
Between the chants of D-S-P and the chants of T-J-O-SHIE, this was one to remember for Caps fans and players alike.
After the game, I asked Smith-Pelly how it felt to hear that support from the Washington crowd.
“It’s a great feeling,” he told me. “I think all I was doing was skating down the wing, just kinda got on the forecheck and they [laughs], they started chanting stuff. It’s a nice feeling. I’m glad to be back.”
Carolina now stands on the brink of elimination. The Capitals will try to close out the series and advance to the second round when they play Game 6 in Raleigh on Monday.