Vrana’s promotion ignites Caps’ 3rd period surge

The Washington Capitals are 60 minutes away from their first Eastern Conference Finals appearance since 1998.

The talk among Capitals fans leading into game five revolved around promoting Jakub Vrana to the first line.

 

After playing 18 minutes of their sloppiest hockey this postseason, the Capitals were in danger of trailing of trailing at the first intermission for the first time in the 2018 playoffs.

Pittsburgh scored first for the second consecutive game as Jamie Oleksiak put the Penguins on the board 2:23 into the game.

Both teams played at a fast pace and Pittsburgh had multiple chances to blow the game open in the first 20 minutes if not for 12 first period saves by Braden Holtby.

Capitals defensman John Carlson scored his 3rd power play goal of the playoffs with 1:38 left in the first period to tie the score at 1-1.

It was only 33 seconds later when Washington took their first lead of the night on Brett Connolly‘s second goal this postseason.

 

If the first period of Saturday night’s game wasn’t the worst period of the series by the Capitals; the second period most certaintly earned that distinction.

Alex Ovechkin‘s second penalty of the night allowed Penguins captain Sidney Crosby to score his 9th goal of the playoffs, tying the game at 2-2.

Patric Hornqvist‘s power play goal three minutes later gave Pittsburgh a 3-2 lead.

Pittsburgh outshot Washington 18-5 during the second period; the Capitals also committed 3 penalties in the period.

 

Washington played the final 20 minutes of regulation as if their season was on the line; because it very well might have been.

With just over 8 minutes remaining in the second period, Capitals head coach moved Vrana to the first line in place of Devante Smith-Pelly.

It only took 52 seconds into the final period for Trotz’s move to pay dividends as Vrana assisted on Evgeny Kuznetsov‘s game tying goal.

With 4:38 remaining in regulation, Vrana scored the game winning goal from Ovechkin and Kuznetsov.

T.J. Oshie and Lars Eller both scored empty net goals in the final two minutes to put the icing on the cake and give Washington a 6-3 win.

 

 

Kuznetsov and Vrana both finished with a team high 3 points; as Ovechkin/Kuznetsov/Vrana is expected to be the first line for game 6, the last game of Tom Wilson‘s suspension.

Holtby finished the night with 36 saves, his most in a regulation playoff game since 2016.

Nicklas Backstrom remained in the locker room during the third period due to an injury an upper body injury; he will be further evaluated Sunday.

 

After scoring four 3rd period goals, three in the final 5 minutes, the Capitals will look to clinch the series Monday night at 7:00pm in Pittsburgh.

Sterling Blount

Sterling Blount

Sterling Blount has been writing passionately about sports since 2011. Sterling has had a strong passion for sports since the age of four; watching anything from football and basketball to golf, lacrosse, and hockey. He first discovered his passion for writing during his freshman year of college. He has lived in the DMV for 26 years and currently covers the Washington Capitals and NCAA Men's Basketball.