Ovechkin, Capitals looking to close out Maple Leafs
TORONTO -- The Washington Capitals expect to have Alex Ovechkin "ready to go" Sunday night in Game 6 when they try to clinch their Eastern Conference playoff series with the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre.
Ovechkin left Game 5, which the Capitals won 2-1 in overtime Friday to take a 3-2 series lead, late in the first period at the Verizon Centre when hit on the left knee by a low hip check from Toronto's Nazem Kadri.
Washington's star left winger returned for the second period and played the rest of the game. Ovechhin seemed to suffer no after-effects.
"He was re-evaluated again after the game," Capitals coach Barry Trotz said in a conference call Saturday. "He's fine and we expect him to be ready to go."
Washington defenseman Karl Alzner missed his third straight game Friday with an upper-body injury, although he participated in the morning skate Friday.
"He's day-to-day and he's improving," Trotz said Saturday when asked about Alzner.
Trotz said that if Alzner does return Sunday, he would consider going with seven defensemen instead of dropping one.
If needed, Game 7 would be played Tuesday in Washington but the Capitals would prefer to finish the series by winning in Toronto.
"You get the opportunity to push someone off the cliff, you need to push them off, if you can," Trotz said. "The difference is we've got a little bit of wiggle room and they don't."
Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock agreed with Trotz.
"I think the way I said it was when you have someone down, and you have a chance to step on them, you step on them or they might get up and kill you," Babcock said. "I agree with him 100 percent. We're in the same thing. If we don't win, we go home. There should be no more desperate team than us and we're all aware and understand that fully."
It has been a close series with each game decided by one goal and four of the five decided in overtime.
"It's been a great series; it's been a good battle," Maple Leafs center Tyler Bozak said. "We're going to bring our best and hopefully we can push it to another game. It'll be an exciting, fun game to be a part of.
"We believe in ourselves. I think every game has been a one-goal game, so it's been fun. It's been a great series to be a part of. We want to take it to another game after (Sunday). We're going to come out and play our best and hopefully we can get it to Game 7."
Specials teams were a big factor for the Capitals on Friday and their penalty-killing was an important of the win. It needed to be because Tom Wilson, a hero on Game 4 with two goals and some hustle plays, took four penalties and was benched in the third period. His spot was taken by Ovechkin, who double-shifted the rest or the way.
"Well, I thought Tom had energy, but you cannot take four penalties in a playoff game," Trotz said. "So, he didn't see the ice after that last one."
The Maple Leafs praised Washington's penalty-killing.
"They have a great penalty kill; they have a great goalie," Bozak said. "I think they've made some adjustments that we didn't adapt to well enough as a unit. It's something that we've got to be a little bit better at -- special teams."
Wilson, when he is not in the penalty box, is an important part of Washington's penalty-killing so when he is off, others need to respond.
"Especially when you lose a guy like Tommy, he's like a big PK guy, we had to rely on some other guys to go out there and get the job done," Capitals defenseman Nate Schmidt said. "But that's the way our guys have been rolling this year, just making sure we just roll those guys over and keep going, and I thought that really gave us a lot of momentum. Obviously, we didn't capitalize on it, but I thought we've gotten a lot of offensive zone time from those kills."
Babcock said the power play was not at its best Friday.
"I didn't think the power play was bad until last game," Babcock said Saturday. "I thought last game we bobbled and turned the puck over way too much. Give them credit, but a lot of them were unforced by ourselves. We can do a better job. We won four faceoffs and we didn't do much with them. We could win more faceoffs in that area."
Trotz said special teams are a "big factor for both teams."
"If you can keep your special teams going through the playoffs, it is a big factor in a series," he said. "It can be because of the fact that the five-on-five play becomes so tight at times that that can be a deciding factor. Consistency on the special teams has been huge."
Updated April 22, 2017