(1a) Panthers in (WC2) Capitals
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Florida Tops Top 7 Series 3-2
The Florida Panthers can advance to the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time since 1996 when they visit the Washington Capitals in Game Six of the first round of the Eastern Conference at Capital One Arena on Friday.
Florida is leading 3-2 in a best of 7 streak after winning the past two games, including scoring five unanswered goals to beat a 5-3 win in Game Five on Wednesday. The Panthers need one more win to claim their first win in a playoff series since defeating the Pittsburgh Penguins in seven games in the 1996 Eastern Conference Final.
“Closing a chain is probably the hardest thing to do,” Panther Attacker Noel Acari She said. “We have to get our A game. We got a good crowd, they’re going to air out and we just have to play our game.”
The Panthers may have to try to finish the series without Carter Verhaghi, which would be a game-time decision after he missed Friday’s morning bobsleigh due to an undisclosed injury. Center leads Florida with 10 points (five goals, five assists) in the series, including a playoff record for the Panthers with five points (two goals, three assists) in Game 5.
“It kind of happened yesterday and I hope he’s ready to go,” Florida coach Andrew Brunot said.
[RELATED: Complete Panthers vs. Capitals series coverage]
Washington needed a win to force Game 7 against Florida on Sunday and avoid elimination in the first round of the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season. The Capitals have not won a series playoffs since defeating the Vegas Golden Knights in five games in the 2018 Stanley Cup Final to win their first championship.
“It’s very simple,” the Washington defense man John Carlson She said. “We’ve had a lot of good moments so far in this series and I think we know what it takes for our good effort and our winnings and all that. So focus on that and have the confidence I know we have, try to learn from our mistakes and move on and put in a good effort tonight.”
Many of the Capitals’ core members of the Stanley Cup team remain and have experience in this position. Washington trailed the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-2 in the 2018 Eastern Conference Final after losing three consecutive games and rebounded to win the series with a 3-0 win in Game 6 at home and a 4-0 win in Game 7 on the road.
This is the first time the Panthers have topped a playoff series since they gained a 3-2 advantage in the 2012 Eastern Conference quarterfinals against the New Jersey Devils. Florida lost games 6 (in overtime) and 7 (in double overtime) of that series.
Here are three keys to Game 6:
1. Play the full 60 (or more)
Washington’s inability to maintain her focus throughout the entire match proved costly after going 3-0 up in Game 5, and she will likely need a full game to extend the streak.
Although the Panthers have excelled at winning comebacks – 25 during the regular season and two in the series – getting a better start would be a good way to discourage the Capitals’ attempt to avoid elimination.
“We pretty much felt we were starting on the nerves and maybe not quite the beginnings we’re looking for in the series,” Brunette said. “We have to find a way to be better tonight because it’s going to be a fun building, it’s going to be lively and they’re a desperate team.”
2. Don’t get stuck in the middle
This was a theme from the beginning of the series and Game 5 served as a reminder of how important it is to play in the neutral zone between these teams. Washington took control of the Neutral Zone early on on its way to building a 3-0 lead and then got sloppy with the puck and Florida taking advantage.
Verhaeghe’s overtime winner in the Panthers’ 3-2 win in Game 4 also follows the Neutral Zone turnover by Capitals.
“Certainly, that’s a point of focus for us, that we continue to do the right things against this team,” said Washington coach Peter Laviollette. “It’s not a team that you want to feed and feed their attack. So, it’s about the intelligence of what we do to help eliminate that, and dictate our approach as well.”
3. Go deeper
Capitals will be without the front Tom Wilson For the fifth game in a row due to a lower body injury, the Panthers will be without a striker Mason’s career For the second game in a row due to a lower body injury. If Verhaeghe is also unable to play, it will test Florida’s depth.
Ryan Lombergwho has been a healthy scratch since playing in Game 1, will likely enter the Florida squad if Verhaeghe is unable to play.
“If he goes out, it’s definitely going to be difficult (because of) how well he plays,” Akari said of Verhaghi. “But I think this entire season we’ve had a ‘next’ mentality. With all the careers the guys have been through, it could be anyone on any night. That’s what makes this group special.”
Expected lineup of cheetahs
Anthony Dockler – Alexander Barkov – Claude Giroud
Jonathan Huberdeau – Sam Bennett – Sam Reinhart
Mason’s career – Anton Lundell – Noel Akiari
Ryan Lomberg – Ito lostarinen – Patrick Hornqvist
Ben Shearoot – Aaron Ekblad
Gustav Forsling – Mackenzie and jealous
Brandon Montour – Radko Judas
scratched: Petrie LindbaumAnd Joe ThorntonAnd Lucas CarlsonAnd Maxim MaminAnd Robert HaagAnd Jonas Johansson
injured: Marcos Notivara (unannounced), Carter Verhaghi (undisclosed)
Predicted capitals lineup
Alex Ovechkin – Evgeny Kuznetsov – Connor Cherry
Marcus Johansson – Niklas Backstrom – TJ O’Shea
Conor McMichael – Lars Eler – Anthony Mantha
Johan Larsson – Nick Dodd – Agate Hathaway
Martin Ferrari – John Carlson
Dmitriy Orlov – Nick Jensen
Trevor van Rimsdijk – Justin Schultz
scratched: Axel Johnson FjalbeAnd Matt IrwinAnd Michel KimbneyAnd Phoenix Copley
injured: Karl Hagelin (left eye), Tom Wilson (lower body)
Wilson was on the ice before skiing on Friday morning in DC but still is day in and day out. … Samsonov will make his fourth consecutive start.