Capitals look to rebound from Game 4 loss to Penguins
(AP Photo/Nick Wass)
WASHINGTON -- Washington Capitals winger Jakub Vrana is playing in just his first playoff series against the rival Pittsburgh Penguins, yet he has a pretty good grasp of things.
"Everybody knows it's a big rivalry. We kind of hate each other," the 22-year-old Vrana told reporters Friday. "We go at it and we're really pumped for the next game."
The Penguins and Capitals meet Saturday in Washington for Game 5 of their series, which is tied 2-2 after the Penguins' 3-1 win Thursday night at PPG Paints Arena.
"We knew we needed to have a good response game here," center Sidney Crosby told the Post-Gazette. "We did that. We need to carry this momentum into Washington."
Washington, looking to avenge second-round losses to Pittsburgh in each of the last two seasons, has won five straight Game 5s when the series is tied. Pittsburgh, meanwhile, is 4-1 on the road in these playoffs after going 17-20-4 away from home in the regular season.
In their last two playoffs meetings, the Capitals trailed the Penguins 3-1 before falling in six games in 2015-16 and seven games last season.
"One game at a time. Now this game isn't going to shake us at all," Capitals goalie Braden Holtby told NHL.com after Thursday's loss. "Our biggest asset has been bouncing back, either after a win or a loss. Just focus on playing our game, and that's what we're going to do. I don't think anyone in here believes any different."
Bouncing back will require Washington to get its top line going. With Tom Wilson suspended for Games 4-6, coach Barry Trotz moved Devante Smith-Pelly up with Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov. They managed just five shots on goal Thursday, none by Ovechkin.
"That whole line has to be better," Trotz told the Washington Post on Friday. "I think that whole line has to be better for us. They're going to need to be productive for us."
Trotz could make a change to the top line for Saturday's game. Forward Andre Burakovsky, who has been out with an upper-body injury since the Columbus series, skated Friday but is unlikely to return Saturday. Vrana played with Ovechkin and Kuznetsov early in the season.
Pittsburgh evened the series Thursday after losing two in a row as Jake Guentzel scored twice, Crosby had two assists and Matt Murray made 20 saves.
Evgeny Malkin scored the tiebreaker in the second period on a goal that survived a replay review and a challenge for goaltender interference.
Guentzel leads the NHL with 10 goals and 21 points in the playoffs.
"Just kind of feel like the bounces are going in right now," Guentzel told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "You're just getting lucky on some plays in front of the net. The puck's finding me. Just have to try and be around it. Hopefully, they keep coming. It's definitely a good feeling."
The Capitals managed just three shots on goal in the third period.
"I think we cut down their odd-man rushes there last game, and that's going to be a big key in this series," Pittsburgh's Patric Hornqvist told the Post Gazette. "They have a lot of firepower up front and we just have to make sure they can't get those quality chances."
Penguins forward Carl Hagelin returned for Game 4 after missing three games with an upper-body injury.
Updated May 5, 2018