Time for Washington Capitals' stars to shine

The Washington Capitals shouldn’t get comfortable with their 3-2 series lead. Last year the Caps came from behind to make it out of the first round, so they should know more than anyone that anything can happen.

Heading into Friday night’s Game 5 at home, the Caps looked like they thought they had everything locked up. The team had rebounded from a dreadful Game 1 and a less than stellar Game 2 and looked as if they may close out the eight seeded Montreal Canadiens in front of their hometown fans. Too bad no one told the Canadiens that was supposed to happen.

Montreal began to ruin the Caps’ storybook Game 5 less than two minutes into the game, when they scored their first of two first period goals. The rude awakening was a sign that this series could be long from over.

After last year’s first round debacle, the Caps should have known to come out and play better than that Friday night. Washington found themselves down 3-1 in their round one series against the New York Rangers last season and they came back to win. Since they came back themselves, it is surprising that they may overlook a team doing the same to them.

One thing that is clear is that they are going to have to play a lot better if they don’t want that 3-1 series lead to evaporate. Friday night was a best hits parade of what Washington has been unable to do during this series. The power play has only converted once in five games, secondary star Alexander Semin has yet to score a goal. In fact, he has only recorded one point — an assist in the team’s 6-3 Game 4 victory.

Not only has the power play and Semin been off, but Norris Trophy candidate Mike Green has yet to score a goal in the series. He has two assists and hasn’t had his penetrating shot.

This is not the first time Green failed to show up in the playoffs either. Last season he disappeared during the Pittsburgh Penguins series in Round 2, but that was blamed on an injury. He doesn’t have that excuse to fall back on this time around.

The top players other than Alexander Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Semyon Varlamov have not been effective. Tomas Fleischmann hasn’t scored when he has had the opportunity, Jeff Shultz, the regular season plus minus leader, is minus one and Brooks Laich only has two points, both of which came in one game. Three guys cannot carry the whole team. If Washington hopes to get anywhere in the playoffs, then players like Fleischmann, Laich and Shultz must contributed positively.

At this point, just winning is not good enough for Washington. They must get everything back on track because there is no telling what the series may hold. Semin, Green, Fleishmann and Laich are all due for big games.

All is not lost for Washington this playoff season. They are up in the series 3-2, but they must be mindful that they cannot take anything for granted. Another bad game tonight and suddenly the series tied up at three games apiece. Putting Montreal away convincingly can show the NHL that they did deserve the No. 1 overall seed and that they can succeed in the playoffs. If they don’t put Montreal away and end up losing the series, then they will begin to hold the title of perennial playoff chokers.

You can reach this writer at atomlinson@theeagleonline.com

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