Capitals' stars step up when needed to avoid elimination in Game 5

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- It took until the third period of Game 5, but the Washington Capitals stars truly arrived.

One by one, they took their turns to make sure the life of this series was extended.

First, it was Capitals goalie Braden Holtby making a great save early in the third on Pittsburgh Penguins forward Tom Kuhnhackl, among others, to keep the game close.

Then, Nicklas Backstrom with a goal that tied it.

Then, Evgeny Kuznetsov with a goal that gave the Capitals their first lead at home of the entire series.

Then Alex Ovechkin with the back-breaker. He fired a shot that was blocked, but he kept on pressing, grabbing the rebound and firing another. This one did it.

The Capitals won 4-2 on Saturday, cutting the Penguins' series lead to 3-2. Game 6 is Monday in Pittsburgh. Maybe it took getting right to the brink of elimination, trailing in the third period, to get the Capitals to the point where they played with the desperation they too often lacked throughout this series. Really, it doesn't matter. All that matters is that it finally happened.

This was the performance Capitals coach Barry Trotz was looking for when he said his top players didn't play well enough in Game 4, a 3-2 Penguins win. This was the moment the Capitals' best players needed. In scoring once again in a potential elimination game, Ovechkin has now scored 10 goals in 19 games in which the Capitals faced elimination. He had been a nonfactor too often for too many long stretches previously in this series but performed when he needed to. At some point, those goals in the biggest games will pay off for Ovechkin.

The win doesn't change just how big a job the Capitals still have ahead of them. Even in the loss, the Penguins showed they are an opportunistic team that rarely panics in the tightest spots. The Capitals still have to beat them twice in two games. That's not an easy task.

But the breakthrough the Capitals have been looking for in this series finally came in the third period of Game 5. And not a moment too soon.