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Trotz: With chance to clinch series, Caps need ‘Killer Instinct’ in Game 6

Washington Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom (19), of Sweden, celebrates his winning goal with T.J. Oshie (77) in overtime of Game 5 of an NHL first-round hockey playoff series as Columbus Blue Jackets center Pierre-Luc Dubois (18) skates by, Saturday, April 21, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

WASHINGTON — For the fourth time in as many years, the Washington Capitals lead their first-round series 3-games-to-2 and have a chance to close it out on the road in Game 6.

In 2015, the Capitals dropped Game 6 against the New York Islanders at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, before returning home and winning Game 7 at Verizon Center.

In 2016, the Capitals beat the Philadelphia Flyers 1-0 in Game 6 at Wells Fargo Center as Braden Holtby posted a 26-save shutout in the series-clinching win.

Last season, the Capitals beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 2-1 in overtime in Game 6 with Marcus Johansson accounting for both Washington goals at the Air Canada Centre.

Head coach Barry Trotz is hopeful that the most recent experience of closing out a first-round series on the road in Game 6 can repeat Monday when the Capitals visit the Columbus Blue Jackets in Game 6 at Nationwide Arena.

Nicklas Backstrom’s game-winning goal at 11:53 of overtime in Game 5 Saturday gave the Capitals a 3-2 series lead.

“If you have a chance to eliminate a team, you have to have that killer instinct,” Trotz said on a conference call with reporters Sunday morning. “You have to have that ability to close out a team.”

Although the Capitals eliminated the Maple Leafs in Game 6 on the road last spring, closing out a series hasn’t always come easy for the Capitals in the Alex Ovechkin era. Since 2008, the Capitals are 6-16 with their opponent facing elimination.

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“It’s the toughest game to win because the other team is desperate,” Trotz said of the potential series clincher. “Their backs are against the wall. They’re going to give their absolute max effort tomorrow and we’ve got to make sure we have a max effort. If we do that, then we have a chance to win in Columbus.”

With a win in Game 6 Monday, the Capitals would advance to Round 2 despite dropping the first two games against the Blue Jackets. The Capitals have rallied from two games down twice before in franchise history, erasing 3-1 series deficits in the 1988 Patrick Division Semifinals against the Flyers and in the 2009 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Rangers.

“You want to get on to the next series as quick as you can,” Trotz said, “because the next series comes up very quickly on you and you need to recover and you need a mental break as well.”

If necessary, Game 7 against Columbus would at Capital One Arena on Wednesday. Entering this postseason, 10 of the 15 playoff series the Capitals have played in the Alex Ovechkin have gone the distance.