The Tampa Bay Lightning and Washington Capitals have certainly kept the 2018 NHL Eastern Conference Final dramatic. If the old saying that it isn't a series until the home team loses is true, spectators have been treated royally since Game 1.
The road-team-wins trend has continued since, and as we head into Game 5, a home squad has yet to send its fans home happy. It's been odd, it's been fun and it's been a sequence befitting two of the most well-constructed teams in professional hockey.
Last year was supposed to be Washington's best chance to win the Stanley Cup since Alex Ovechkin arrived in 2005, but they failed to capitalize on a loaded roster. Yet here they are, fighting tooth and nail to go to the final a year later.
Their reward for finally taking down the Pittsburgh Penguins in the postseason has been a rough-and-tumble series against the Lightning, though, and the stakes are high as we approach Saturday's pivotal Game 5. It's can't-miss hockey for any fan.
Eastern Conference Final Game 5 Schedule
When: Saturday, May 19 at 7:15 p.m. ET
Television: NBC, CBC, TVA Sports
Stream: NBC Sports Live, NBC Sports App or Hulu
Updated Odds for Game 5
Tampa Bay: -170
Odds according to OddsShark and are accurate as of 5 p.m. ET on May 18.
Game 5 Preview
These are the kinds of games that can cement a player's legacy.
That might seem hyperbolic, but this is Ovechkin we're talking about. He entered the league alongside Sidney Crosby, and while both players are indisputably fantastic (read: generational talents), there's no arguing that only one of them has experienced postseason success worth remembering.
After the Capitals jumped out to a 2-0 lead via back-to-back wins on the road, some pundits were ready to put the nail in the Lightning's coffin. Tampa Bay is no shrinking violet, though, and stormed back to knot the series at two in Washington.
It's not a Game 7, but the importance of going up 3-2 in the Eastern Conference Final can't be overstated. According to Hockey Reference's historical playoff data, teams that win Game 5 and take a 3-2 lead win the series nearly 80 percent of the time.
Ovechkin isn't the only star player who will be looking to add a line to his resume on Saturday, however. Steven Stamkos has seven goals in the playoffs—including one in every game against the Capitals—and is looking to continue to drive Tampa's comeback.
He's been electric on the power play, a threat to find the back of the net each time the Lightning end up skating with an extra man.
Perhaps the biggest wild card in the contest will be Braden Holtby. He's been quite beatable over his past two outings and knows that he will need to be better moving forward if the Capitals are going to go to the Stanley Cup Final.
Alex Killorn's goal during the third period of Game 4 was a backbreaker and the kind of shot Holtby simply needs to stop—especially with the way Andrei Vasilevskiy has been playing as of late. Will the 2016 Vezina Trophy winner show up for Game 5? Or will it be the shaky performer that we saw earlier this series?
It's time for the stars to shine, and whichever team gets stronger performances from their high-end options will likely secure a win and Game 5. The Capitals played quite well in Game 4, and if they can come up with a similar effort, they stand a good chance of winning the contest.
However, there's a storm brewing on the horizon now the Lightning have made this a best-of-three series, and this one could end up being an instant classic between two hungry, talented and disparate organizations.