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N.H.L. Playoffs: Defending Champion Penguins Pushed to Brink of Elimination

N.H.L. Playoffs: Defending Champion Penguins Pushed to Brink of Elimination


Jakub Vrana jumped into the arms of Alex Ovechkin after scoring the go-ahead goal.

Alex Brandon/Associated Press

Jakub Vrana scored the go-ahead goal with 4 minutes 38 seconds remaining, Braden Holtby made 35 saves and the Washington Capitals beat the Pittsburgh Penguins, 6-3, in Game 5 Saturday night to take a three-games-to-two lead in the second-round series and put the back-to-back defending Stanley Cup champions on the brink of elimination.

Vrana made Coach Barry Trotz look like a genius for moving him to the top line alongside Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov, replacing Devante Smith-Pelly in the second period. Vrana sprung Kuznetsov for a breakaway on Washington’s tying goal 52 seconds into the third and finished off Ovechkin’s pass for the game-winner.

The Capitals are one victory from advancing to the Eastern Conference finals for the first time in the Ovechkin era and over all since 1998, when they reached the Stanley Cup final. They can move on to face the winner of the Tampa Bay-Boston series if they win Game 6 on Monday in Pittsburgh.

They’re up on the Penguins on the strength of Ovechkin’s offense and the goaltending of Holtby, who kept them in the game for long stretches when the Penguins were pressing. Holtby was at his best when the Capitals were outshot, 18-5, in the second period.

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