The Washington Capitals have given the Presidents' Trophy-winning Florida Panthers all they can handle. Their Eastern Conference first-round NHL playoff series is tied 2-2 and Game 5 is on tap tonight in South Florida. The Capitals will remain without top-six forward Tom Wilson, and the Panthers may not have one of their key forwards in Mason Marchment. Florida is a -230 favorite at Caesars Sportsbook.
That moneyline number seems quite inflated considering Washington stole Game 1 at Florida, 4-2, dominated Game 3 in D.C. with a 6-1 victory, and probably should have won Game 4 as well but allowed a tying goal with about two minutes left in regulation and lost in overtime. Thus, the Capitals are 3-1 on the puckline in the series (if that route intrigues you) and likely should be up 3-1. Florida remains the -280 series favorite and +270 leader to win the East – should the Panthers lose here, I'd expect Toronto (+300) to take over that top spot ahead of its Game 6 at Tampa Bay on Thursday.
Wilson had Washington's first goal in Game 1 but hasn't played since early in that first period due to a lower-body injury. He traveled with the club yet couldn't participate in the game-day skate. Wilson had 24 goals and 28 assists and was plus-13 in the regular season.
Marchment has played in all four games of the series and has a goal with a minus-3 rating, but is a game-time call with an undisclosed injury. He had 18 goals and 29 assists with a plus-29 rating during the season and is an important member of the power-play unit. Maxim Mamin would likely take Marchment's spot in the lineup.
While this year's Panthers squad was the NHL's highest-scoring team since the 1995-96 season, they have yet to score on the power play in this series. Every other team in the postseason, even eliminated Nashville, has at least two power-play goals.
Florida has started Sergei Bobrovsky in net all four games and there won't be a change there. Washington's Vitek Vanecek started the first two games but was relieved in Game 2 by Ilya Samsonov. Samsonov has started the past two and will play again Wednesday.
When a best-of-seven series is tied 2-2 in the Stanley Cup playoffs, the winner of Game 5 holds an all-time series record of 219-58, including a 6-0 record last year. When the home team wins Game 5 to take a 3-2 lead, it wins the series 80.7 percent of the time (138-33). When the road team wins Game 5, it takes the series 76.4 percent of the time (81-25).
Free NHL pick: Capitals +1.5 (-130)
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