Capitals rally past Penguins in Game 5 to avoid elimination

Capitals rally past Penguins in Game 5 to avoid elimination

WASHINGTON — It was quiet in the Washington Capitals’ locker room during the second intermission as they stared down the prospect of the end of their season and last best chance at a Stanley Cup potentially being 20 minutes away.

A few minutes into the third period, the players made their home rink very, very loud.

Nicklas Backstrom changed the course of the game with the tying goal and Evgeny Kuznetsov and Alex Ovechkin scored 27 seconds apart as the Capitals came back to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-2 in Game 5 Saturday night to avoid elimination. As Sidney Crosby gave the Penguins a boost with a return from his latest concussion, Braden Holtby had his strongest performance of the season, stopping 20 shots to help force a Game 6 back in Pittsburgh on Monday night.

“After second: “No panic, nobody talk a lot because everybody concentrate and that’s what we need,” Ovechkin said. “You see how we respond.”

On the brink of elimination and trailing a Pittsburgh team that went 37-1-1 in the regular season and 6-0 in the playoffs when up after two periods, the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Capitals finally responded like the Cup contenders everyone thought they should be. With the slogan “Own the big moments” a reminder of how they didn’t do so a year ago in their second-round loss to the Penguins, Washington’s best players came to play when the moment was its biggest.

“That’s just what we need in these tight games,” said Andre Burakovsky, who scored the tying goal in the first period and had another good game after replacing Ovechkin as the top-line left winger. “We need our best players to step up and do the hard work and be the difference makers. I think that’s what they were tonight.”

In the process, the Capitals finally solved Pittsburgh goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, who allowed four goals on 32 shots after putting up a .937 save percentage in the first four games of the series. The three third-period goals came on five shots over a span of 5:02, including Kuznetsov’s goal from a super-sharp angle.

“They finish first in the league, there’s a reason for it,” Fleury said. “The last (win is) always the hardest to get. Disappointing but move on.”

Capitals players said there was no shortage of belief despite being down 2-1 after two on Penguins goals by Carl Hagelin and Phil Kessel, and Game 5 following a similar script of more shots but fewer goals. Now there’s no shortage of belief about getting the series back to Washington for a potential Game 7 on Wednesday.

“We came back and hopefully we build off this now,” said Backstrom, who executed a perfect give-and-go with Burakovsky on his goal . “You’ve just got to win on Monday. Same scenario as today. We’ve just got to take one game at a time and you have to reset here and, hopefully, we can get some confidence off this win.”

The Penguins’ confidence stems from still having a 3-2 series lead, home ice in Game 6 and getting Crosby back five days after he was concussed.

“He’s a competitor,” defenceman Brian Dumoulin said. “He wants to be out there. It’s good that he was cleared and able to play. We wanted a win and to get this win but it’s definitely good to have him back.”

Crosby had an assist in his first game back and felt good, but the Penguins couldn’t handle the Capitals’ quick-strike offence in the third period that has made this series between the NHL’s top two teams even more interesting.

“We’re playing one of the best teams in the league,” Holtby said. “We’re going to have to be the best team in the league if we’re going to win this series. And we’re up to the challenge.”

NOTES: In addition to Crosby, Penguins RW Conor Sheary returned after being concussed Monday in a collision with teammate Patric Hornqvist. … Capitals D Brooks Orpik appeared to shake his left hand after being slashed by Evgeni Malkin in the first period. … The Capitals again dressed seven defencemen. … Super Bowl winning Redskins quarterback Mark Rypien received a nice ovation from the sellout crowd when he was shown on the video boards.

___

Follow Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SWhyno .

___

More AP NHL: http://apnews.com/tag/NHLhockey

Stephen Whyno, The Associated Press

Just Posted

Saanich police investigating sexual assault in broad daylight

Social media lit up with accusations incident took place at Regina Park tent city

Swimmer halts journey across Strait of Juan de Fuca after hypothermia sets in

Susan Simmons swam for eight-and-a-half hours in 9 C choppy waters

Oak Bay man designer behind Canucks’ retro jersey

Jeremie White was 20 years old when he told Canucks assistant GM Brian Burke he had a design

Opposing views clash over removal of Royal Oak Golf Course from ALR

Golf course not ideal for farming, says report

Five things to do in Greater Victoria this weekend

Puppy yoga, horses, cars, water guns and more make up this weekend’s list of events to see

Fast food chains look to capitalize on vegetarian, vegan trend with new items

Seven per cent of Canadians consider themselves vegetarians and 2.3 per cent identify as vegans

‘Hard on water:’ Smoke not the only long-range effect of wildfires

The project began more than 10 years ago after southern Alberta’s 2003 Lost Creek fire

B.C. VIEWS: Genuine aboriginal rights can be misused and discredited

Camp Cloud one of long line of protests falsely asserting title

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to march in Montreal’s Pride parade

Trudeau will end the day in his home riding of Papineau

Vancouver Whitecaps give up late goal in 2-2 draw with New York Red Bulls

Four of Vancouver’s next five games are at home

RCMP looking for missing Duncan teen

Dallas Macleod, 18, was last seen on Aug. 10

Most Read