Surging Capitals aim to close out Blue Jackets
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- After losing two games to start the postseason, the Washington Capitals stand on the brink of completing a comeback and advancing to the next round in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
A 4-3 overtime victory on Saturday in Washington gave the Capitals a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series and put them one win from closing out the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Game 6 will be played Monday night at Nationwide Arena, where the Capitals already have won twice in the playoffs.
"It's a big win moving forward," Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin said after the fourth overtime game in the series. "We still have one more game. (We have to) just play our game. It's simple but it's hard. They're not going to give us an easy one. It's going to be interesting."
The Capitals keep finding ways to win. Their latest victory came on a goal by Nicklas Backstrom, his second of the game, on a redirection of a shot by Dmitry Orlov at 11:53 of overtime after Washington was outshot 16-1 in the third period.
"We know (in a) best out of seven series we need to be a little better if we're going to win it," Backstrom said. "I honestly thought we got a little lucky. But we'll take it.
"We need be a little more aggressive. We need to be better with the puck."
The bounces had gone the Blue Jackets' way in their two overtime wins to start the series, but little has gone right for them since then.
The Blue Jackets were beaten in double overtime in Game 3 at home, struggled in Game 4, also at their own rink, and then played possibly their best game of the series on Saturday but weren't rewarded.
With the Blue Jackets in a must-win predicament, they expect to put forth their best effort on Monday. Coach John Tortorella was confident enough to say after the latest loss in Washington, "I won't have to say a damn word to them. We'll be back here for Game 7."
Ovechkin made a similar prediction after Washington dropped the first two games in the series, saying the team would win the next two in Columbus. The Capitals did just that.
Washington coach Barry Trotz understands that Tortorella is trying to motivate his team with a bold prediction.
"Well, what else are you going to say?" Trotz said. "That's good. He wants to get it out there (that) he believes in his team, just as I believe in my team. So it's our job for that not to happen, and we're going to try to do that."
Can the Blue Jackets deliver for Tortorella and the Columbus fans, who have yet to see the franchise win a playoff series since its inaugural season in 2000-01?
"Our backs are against the wall, right?" Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno said. "If you can't play your best game come Monday, then that's disappointing. I don't have any worries at all about our group going into Monday. If we have the same effort, the same mentality that we did (Saturday), we should be just fine."
Blue Jackets forward Matt Calvert, who scored two goals (one short-handed), quickly put Game 5 behind him and looked ahead to Monday night.
"I can't wait to get back in front of fans," he said. "I think we really owe them one. It's a great barn. It's going to be tough for them to come in. We're excited about it.
"We've got an epic game at home to tie this up. ... We want to have a dominant effort at home and get back to Washington."
Blue Jackets defenseman Seth Jones said, "It's do or die. Desperation level is at an all-time high. We feel confident going on our home ice."
Capitals goalie Braden Holtby withstood the Blue Jackets' third-period attack, finishing with 39 saves and giving Washington a chance to come away with a win in overtime. He expects another nail-biter in the highly competitive matchup between the Metropolitan Division teams.
Washington is 7-8 all time in games when it has a 3-2 series lead.
"It's going to best game yet of the series,"Holtby said. "Both teams are not giving an inch, fighting for every little inch out there. We know they're going to come out hard for Game 6."
Updated April 23, 2018