Capitals-Islanders Preview

The crowd has seemingly played just as big a part as the players in the first-round postseason series between the Washington Capitals and New York Islanders.

The Nassau Coliseum faithful, though, are facing the possibility of rooting for the Islanders for the final time.

That's because New York needs to win Game 6 on Saturday to send the series back to Washington, and even if that happens, a loss Monday night in the finale would end the Islanders' season and their time at the 43-year-old arena before they move to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn next fall.

The Islanders have played at Nassau Coliseum since their inaugural season in 1972-73, highlighted by winning the Stanley Cup in four straight years in the early '80s. They hoisted the Cup in front of the home fans in three of those seasons.

This series opened with the teams splitting a pair of games in Washington, and before Game 3, Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin said he didn't think Nassau Coliseum would be louder than the Verizon Center.

The crowd took notice, chanting "Can you hear us?!" throughout the game, which the Islanders won on captain John Tavares' goal 15 seconds into overtime.

It was more of the same in Game 4, but Ovechkin quieted the Coliseum with his second goal of the series at 13:06 of the first period and assisted on Nicklas Backstrom's overtime score to send the series back to Washington tied 2-all.

The Verizon Center crowd took its turn Thursday, also chanting "Can you hear us?!" as well as "We are louder!" as the Capitals rolled to a 5-1 victory to put New York on the brink of elimination.

"We know what it means to our fans. ... It just can't be the last game for them," Islanders defenseman Thomas Hickey said. "So we're going to come with our heads on and be ready to play, and make sure that it's not the last game there. We've got to find a way."

The Islanders need to find a way to get their power play going after going 0 for 12 in the series, one reason they've been held to four goals over the last three games. They finished fourth in the NHL with 2.99 goals per game.

New York is also dealing with injuries to its defensive corps. The Islanders played without Travis Hamonic and Lubomir Visnovsky on Thursday and lost Calvin de Haan in the third period, when the Capitals broke it open with three unanswered goals in the first nine minutes.

"We're a little bit banged up, but it gives other guys an opportunity to step up," forward Kyle Okposo told the Islanders' official website. "You're going to have to deal with injuries as a team and we have to find a way to put together a full team and get a big win."

New York hasn't won a playoff series since reaching the Wales Conference finals in 1993.

"We have to win," Tavares told the NHL's official website. "We are trying to play for a Stanley Cup. There is a lot obviously with the history (of Nassau Coliseum). But we have to go out there and play. We have to feed off of our crowd, understanding our backs are against the wall and come out and respond."

The Capitals cruised in Game 5 despite getting no points from Ovechkin and Backstrom, who had three goals and three assists in the previous three games.

Rookie center Evgeny Kuznetsov scored twice and added an assist, while defenseman Karl Alzner and forward Jason Chimera each had a goal and an assist.

"Everybody wants to score the goal," Kuznetsov said. "But if you do the right things, stay in the plan, all the goals, passes and Cups come. One guy never (wins) the Cup. Only (teams) win the Cup."

Goaltender Braden Holtby said the Capitals aren't going to get caught up in the emotion of Saturday possibly being the last game at Nassau Coliseum.

"I think there's a limit every team knows they can play at," Holtby said after Friday's practice. "I think both teams are wanting to reach that tomorrow. I think all other factors aside it really doesn't matter. We're both gonna focus on what we need to do, and it's going to be a good hockey game."

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