The Washington Capitals are back at Capital One Arena for the fifth game in their first-round series against the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday night. Thursday’s 2-1 loss in Raleigh put the Capitals in a rough place. Both teams have won at their respective arena and lost on the road bringing it to a tied series. Game 5 is a pivotal one; the Capitals want to regain the lead, while the Hurricanes want to put the reigning Stanley Cup Champions to the brink of elimination. Action can be seen on NBC beginning at 8 PM ET.
The Capitals and Hurricanes are in a rut as some of their best players are out of the lineup due to respective injuries. For Washington, defensemen Michal Kempny has been out since March 20 after undergoing hamstring surgery and will not be returning this postseason. Not only did the Capitals lose Game 4, but also lost first-line forward T.J. Oshie. The right winger was boarded by Hurricanes forward Warren Foegele late in the third period. Head Coach Todd Reirden told the media Oshie will be out for “a significant amount of time” as a result of the upper-body injury, and will obviously not play in Game 5. More information will be known about Oshie within the next 24-48 hours. Foegele will not receive a hearing or suspension said by Renaud Lavoie of TVA Sports.
With Oshie out for Game 5 and likely beyond, the Capitals recalled forward Devante Smith-Pelly from the AHL’s Hershey Bears and re-assigned goaltender Vitek Vanecek on Friday morning. Smith-Pelly will immediately return to Washington’s lineup for Saturday’s game according to Reirden.
On Carolina’s side, rookie forward Andrei Svechnikov likely will not play in Game 5. Svechnikov remains on concussion protocol after a nasty fight with Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin during Monday’s 5-0 win in Game 3. He did some light skating while wearing a full cage for morning skate on Thursday, but did not play in Game 4. It is unclear whether Svechnikov will play again in the first round.
Defenseman Calvin de Hann missed six games with an upper-body injury but returned to the Hurricanes’ lineup for Game 4. Forward Michael Ferland suffered an upper-body injury in Game 3 and has been out since then. Forward Jordan Martinook had an awkward clash with the glass after a missed check on Capitals defenseman Dmitry Orlov and did not return for the third period. Neither will likely play in Game 5.
The Hurricanes have also recalled a player from the AHL’s Charlotte Checkers. Forward Aleksi Saarela was recalled and defenseman Jake Bean was re-assigned back to Charlotte.
Leaders + Goaltenders
Leading the Capitals in goals and sharing the team-lead in points with Ovechkin, center Nicklas Backstrom has posted four points, including three goals through four games this series. Ovechkin has had two goals and two assists in four games. His last goal came during Washington’s loss in Game 4. Ovechkin tied Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin for the 26th most playoff goals in NHL history. Defenseman John Carlson and center Evgeny Kuznetsov, who needs to step up for the Capitals, have picked up three assists each in the series. Kuznetsov led the NHL with 32 points in the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Foegele and defenseman Jaccob Slavin each have five points in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the Hurricanes. While Foegele leads with three goals, Slavin has tallied five assists in four games.
Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby has had a decrease in save percentage (.905) after two major losses in Raleigh. His goals-against average is 3.00 and he has allowed 12 goals through the four games of Round One.
Hurricanes’ goaltender Petr Mrazek already had one shutout in the postseason. With a save percentage of .919, he has allowed eight goals and has goals against average of 2.00.
The Capitals and Hurricanes are tied in the top-ten in terms of special teams. Sitting at ninth, the Capitals have a 20% effective power play. Their penalty kill percentage is 80%, which is good for seventh in the postseason. Ovechkin leads Washington with two power-play goals and seven penalty minutes.
The Hurricanes have a 20% power play efficiency as well. Defenseman Dougie Hamilton has recorded two power play goals in four games. They have the same percentage for the penalty kill at 80%.
The Capitals are the second-worst team in the Stanley Cup Playoffs when it comes to face-off win percentages (46%); the Hurricanes are the second best with 54%.
By Della Young