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Caps Today, 5/7/18

May 7, 2018
The Capitals face the Pittsburgh Penguins at PPG Paints Arena tonight in Game 6 of the 2018 Eastern Conference semifinals. Washington leads the series 3-2. 

Washington has won each of its last four series when it led the series 3-2 (2015 ECQF, 2016 ECQF, 2017 ECQF, 2018 ECQF) and is 8-8 all-time. Alex Ovechkin has registered 14 points (7g, 7a) in 14 career Game 6s and Nicklas Backstrom has tallied 12 points (3g, 9a) in 14 career Game 6s. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, when a best of seven series was tied 2-2, the winner of Game 5 holds an all-time series record of 202-54 (78.9%).

John Carlson is entering tonight’s game third among all NHL defensemen with 11 points (3g, 8a) in the playoffs and is one point shy of tying the Capitals' franchise mark for points by a defenseman in the playoffs (Kevin Hatcher, 1988: 5g, 7a; Scott Stevens, 1988: 1g, 11; Carlson, 2016: 5g, 7a). In 87 career playoff games, which is the second most in franchise history among defensemen, Carlson has 46 points (16g, 30a) and two game-winning goals. Carlson’s 68 points (15g, 53a) led the NHL this season and are the seventh-highest single season total by a Capital in franchise history. Carlson became the third Capitals defenseman to lead the NHL in points since 2000 (Sergei Gonchar: 2001-02, 59 points; Mike Green: 2008-09, 2009-10: 73 and 76 points, respectively).

TOP GAME NOTES

Young V – Capitals rookie Jakub Vrana recorded three points (1g, 2a) in Game 5 and scored his second game wining goal of the playoffs (Game 2 versus Pittsburgh) to become the first rookie in franchise history to record multiple game-winning goals in a single postseason. Additionally, Vrana became the fourth rookie in franchise history to record three points in a playoff game (Sergei Gonchar, 1995 Conference Quarterfinal versus the Pittsburgh Penguins; Richard Zednik, 1998 Conference Final versus the Buffalo Sabres; Evgeny Kuznetsov, 2015 First Round versus the New York Islanders).  Additionally, Vrana's goal with 4:38 left in regulation marked the second time this series the Capitals have scored a game-winning goal in the final five minutes of regulation (Alex Ovechkin: Game 3, 1:07 remaining). According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that marks the first time a team has recorded two game-winning goals in a single series in the last five minutes of regulation (San Jose versus Nashville, 2016).

Multi-Kuzy - Evgeny Kuznetsov recorded three points (1g, 2a) in Game 5 against the Penguins. That marked his seventh career multi-point game, which ranks fourth on the Capitals since the 2014-15 season, Kuznetsov's first postseason. During the regular season, from March 12 to March 28, Kuznetsov recorded sixth-straight multi-point games (5g, 8a). According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Kuznetsov was the only player with a six-game multi-point streak this season and was the first to complete six-straight games with at least two points since Edmonton Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl (March 14-23, 2017: 3g, 10a). Additionally, Kuznetsov tied the franchise record in most consecutive games with at least two points with Dennis Maruk (1981-82), Mike Gartner (1984-85) and Mike Green (2008-09). Kuznetsov's 13 points (6g, 7a) in the playoffs are tied for second on the Capitals and are tied for eighth in the NHL. 

The Great Eight – Entering Game 6, Alex Ovechkin is fourth in the NHL with eight goals in the playoffs and leads the Capitals with 14 points (8g, 6a), which is tied for the sixth most in the NHL. Additionally, Ovechkin is tied for fourth among active NHL players (min. 20 games played) in career playoff goals per game (0.50) and tied for eighth in playoff points per game (0.96). Among the top 10 active career playoff goal scorers, Ovechkin ranks sixth, and his 0.50 goals per game ranks first among player on that list. Ovechkin has 32 points (15g, 16a) in 25 career playoff games against the Penguins.

Holtbeast – Entering Game 6, goaltender Braden Holtby has posted a 7-3-0 record with a 2.16 goals-against average (second among goaltenders currently in the playoffs) and .924 save percentage (fourth among goaltenders with at least three games played currently in the playoffs) in 10 games. In the series, Holtby has a 2.42 goals against average, the lowest goals against average among second-round goaltenders, and a .915 save percentage, the third-highest save percentage in the second-round. Holtby has posted four shutouts, a 2.02 goals-against average and a .931 save percentage in a franchise-record 69 career playoff games. The Lloydminster, Saskatchewan, native ranks second in NHL playoff history (min. 50 games played) in career save percentage and second in career goals-against average. In addition, Holtby ranks first among active NHL goaltenders (min. 20 games played) in career playoff save percentage and goals-against average. Holtby has allowed two goals or fewer in 43 of his 69 career playoff games and Washington has posted a 29-14 record in those games. During the regular season, Holtby has played in 160 career games following one day of rest, recording 2.16 goals against average and a .927 save percentage, his lowest goals against average and his highest save percentage of any other combination of days with rest.

Cardiac Caps - The Capitals have trailed in a game heading into the third period four times this postseason, and the Capitals have won two of those games. That's the highest win percentage (.500) in games where a team trails heading into the third period in the playoffs.

Must Read/See/Hear Material

Dump ‘n Chase: Caps and Pens Clash in Game 6 in Pittsburgh / #CapsPens Postgame Notebook: Comeback Caps

Washington Post: This Capitals team could be different, because its path to get here was harder / Capitals’ Nicklas Backstrom likely to play in Game 6 despite upper-body injury / Svrluga: The Capitals better win this series in six games / D.C. Sports Bog: The Caps could end the stupidest streak in sports. Heck yeah it matters.

Washington Times: Capitals have two chances to break 20-year ‘D.C. Sports Curse’ / To beat Penguins, Capitals have had to match champions’ resiliency / Nicklas Backstrom expected to play for Capitals in Game 6 / Loverro: Braden Holtby saves Capitals fans from more despair / Len Bias, Class of 2018 D.C. Hall of Fame honored (Capitals mentioned)

NBC Sports Washington: Capitals at Penguins Game 6 NHL Playoffs 2018: Date, Time, How to Watch, live stream / Tampa Bay Lightning await winner of Caps-Penguins / Why playing in Pittsburgh could limit how much we see Jakub Vrana on the top line / Good news: Trotz expects Backstrom, Carlson to suit up Monday in Pittsburgh

NHL.com: Capitals aim to seize opportunity in Game 6 against Penguins / Backstrom expected to play for Capitals in Game 6 against Penguins

AP: Ovechkin, Capitals eager to exorcise playoff ghosts

Grand Forks Herald: Shane Gersich is first since Tony Hrkac to play at UND and in NHL playoffs in same season

The National: After winning NHL star Alexander Ovechkin's attention, UAE's ice hockey queen Fatima Al Ali dreams of refereeing at Olympics

Nashville Predators: Preds GM Poile Inducted Into Washington DC Sports Hall of Fame

Regina Leader-Post: Pilon feels at home on the road

Sports Capitol: Trotz: Nicklas Backstrom expected in Capitals’ Game 6 lineup

SportsNet: Capitals look for finishing blow with Penguins on the ropes

STATS LLC: Capitals aim to end Penguins’ elimination-game survival run

TSN: The Pens have already fared worse in Caps series when leading after two than they did all year long

WTOP: Caps coach Barry Trotz has a message to DC sports fans: ‘Get behind us’ / Capitals Nicklas Backstrom could be in Game 6 lineup Monday in Pittsburgh

TV/Audio Clips:

Washington Capitals: Barry Trotz | May 6 / All-Access | Just Keep Believing

CBS Sports: Capitals seeking first Conference Finals appearance since 1998

NBC Sports: Can the Capitals end the D.C. sports curse?

NBC Sports Washington: Barry Trotz asks fans for support / Caps-Pens Game 6 preview: Can Caps shut the door?

TSN: Dreger: Lamoriello joining the Islanders in some capacity is a very real possibility (Capitals mentioned)

Penguins Clips:

The Athletic: Mike Sullivan praises character of these Penguins as their season faces elimination

DK Pittsburgh Sports: Kovacevic: Even facing elimination, precedent favors these Penguins / Bradford’s three keys for Penguins vs. Capitals in Game 6 / Facing elimination, Sullivan still ‘3elieves’ in his team

NHL.com: Penguins confident facing elimination in Game 6 against Capitals / Crosby enjoying best career start to playoffs for Penguins / Crosby climbing all-time playoff scoring list for Penguins

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: The case for: Why the Penguins are fine / The case against: Why the Penguins are in serious trouble going into Game 6 / Ron Cook: Don't bet against battle-tested Penguins / 20 Penguins Thoughts: Rick Tocchet, a fan from afar / Penguins drawing on elimination experience for Game 6

Trib Live: Three things to watch for in Penguins-Capitals Game 6 / Penguins defense must bounce back in pivotal Game 6 / Can Penguins' elimination-game magic under Mike Sullivan continue? / Kevin Gorman: For Penguins, Game 6 is no time to count on a curse / Analysis: Ryan Reaves latest ex-Penguin to shine in playoffs / Penguins notebook: 'Battle-tested' group remains confident facing elimination game with Capitals / Tim Benz: For Penguins, it's finish or be finished / Saturday night Penguins game sets ratings record

GAME NOTES
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