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The Narrative: Leaders Leading, T.J. & D.S.P., Dowd and Out

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Three things we’re talking about today when we’re talking about the Caps

Carolina Hurricanes v Washington Capitals - Game Five Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

1. Leaders Leading

Here’s a postseason cliché for you: in the playoffs, your best players have to be your best players.

Here’s a Game 5 truth: on Saturday night, the Caps’ best players were their best players:

  • Nicklas Backstrom: 2 goals (including his third ”first goal” at home this series), 2 assists
  • Alex Ovechkin: 1 goal, 2 primary assists, 11 (!) hits (and these numbers even undersell the game he had)
  • Braden Holtby: 30-save shutout
  • John Carlson: 2 assists

Someday, at least two and maybe all four of those names will hang in the rafters at Capital One Arena - they’ve been the most important players of the most important era of Washington Capitals hockey, with each taking down franchise (and League) records seemingly every game - and in Game 5, they imposed their respective wills on the Carolina Hurricanes.

Throw in some key secondary contributions (Evgeny Kuznetsov’s two primary helpers, Tom Wilson’s goal and assist), the bottom-six’s first non-empty net scores of the series (Brett Connolly’s tally and Nic Dowd’s penalty shot) and some monster second-period penalty killing (shoutout to Carl Hagelin) and you’ve got the recipe for a Game 5 that made those two games in Raleigh seem like bad fever dreams.

via Natural Stat Trick

Was Game 5 a perfect game? Let’s just leave it at “it was comfortably the Caps’ best game of the series, and an effort befitting the champs.”

Rest assured that whatever you feel the Caps needed to show you in Game 5, it pales in comparison to what they felt they needed to show themselves:

Confirmed... or maybe the ‘Canes just stunk.

We’ll go with “a lot from Column A, a little from Column B” and hope that it continues the same way in Game 6.

2. T.J. and D.S.P.

The Caps didn’t have to look far for inspiration for Game 5, given the loss of T.J. Oshie (collarbone, btw)...

... and the recall of Devante Smith-Pelly:

Seeing DSP in a Caps playoff hug... it just feels right.

3. Dowd and Out

Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Peter Bondra, Mike Gartner, Mike Ridley, Alexander Semin, Bengt Gustafsson, Dale Hunter... we could sit here all day naming Caps who had never scored a penalty shot goal in the playoffs for Washington because before Saturday night, no one ever had:

(Ugh... too soon on that Juneau fail.)

Anyway, Nic Dowd put the icing on the Game 5 win cake (before Ovechkin put a cherry bomb on top) this beauty:

Dowd had never taken or scored on a penalty shot in the NHL and was 0-for-2 in shootout attempts in his career, and now he’s done something no one in franchise history ever had (and will win you bar bets for years to come).

Playoff hockey can be a lot of fun sometimes, can’t it?