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.
JETS 6, PREDATORS 2 Kyle Connor scored two goals and had an assist as Winnipeg won at Nashville, pushing the Presidents’ Trophy winner to the brink of elimination with a 3-2 series lead in their Western Conference semifinal.
Now the Jets, who just won their first playoff series in the first round, will have a chance to clinch a spot in their first Western Conference final on Monday night in Game 6 back in Winnipeg.
Connor Hellebuyck made 38 saves for the Jets.
Dustin Byfuglien and Mark Scheifele each had a goal and an assist, and Paul Stastny and Mathieu Perrault also scored as the Jets got four goals on 14 shots in the second period. Blake Wheeler also had three assists, and Nikolaj Ehlers added two.
Yannick Weber and Ryan Johansen each scored for Nashville. The Predators have not won consecutive games since taking a 2-0 series lead over Colorado to start the playoffs.