Evgeni Malkin hopes to play a key role Saturday after scoring the game-winning goal in Game 4.Gene J. Puskar/Associated PressThrough four games, the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals are on even terms.The two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins won Games 1 and 4, while the Capitals earned victories in Game 2 and 3.The sparring is done between these heated rivals, and they will play a best-of-three series to decide which team gets to the Eastern Conference Final.This is the third straight year these teams have met in the playoffs, and the Penguins were victorious in the previous two meetings. There was a feeling of inevitability that Pittsburgh would find a way to win those series even though the Capitals had been the superior regular-season team both times.Washington once again had a better regular-season record than Pittsburgh this term, but there has been no inevitability about this year’s series. The Caps have been at least as good as the Pens and have scored the opening goal in three of the four games.Pittsburgh played with desperation in Game 4, tying the series after recording a 3-1 victory. The Penguins were led by the dangerous duo of Jake Guentzel and Evgeni Malkin.Guentzel scored two goals, while Malkin scored the go-ahead goal in the second period on a diving shot. Malkin made a big impact as he returned from a lower-body injury, and if he can continue to produce and Sidney Crosby adds a goal or two, the Capitals would find it hard to respond.Pete Blackburn @PeteBlackburnMassive game-winning goal by Alex Ovechkin https://t.co/Mei2s07mmWThe Caps need their stars to step up as well, and that includes Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Nicklas Backstrom and John Carlson. Ovechkin scored the game-winning goal in Game 3 in Pittsburgh, and he has been more effective against the Penguins this series than he has in the past.Pittsburgh head coach Mike Sullivan believes his line combinations are starting to gain the balance needed for his team to play solid hockey.”We’ve adjusted some line combinations,” Sullivan said, per Wes Crosby of NHL.com. “We’ve created some balance through our lineup. We evaluate our lineup and our decisions after every game, and we try to put the best lineup on the ice that we think gives us the best chance to win.”             Joe Rexrode @joerexrodeI don’t know what Game 5 will bring. But I know Peter Laviolette is schooling all of us when it comes to his team and what’s best for it. Column on his latest wizardry and what it means. https://t.co/VsbcHhmH0MSaturday’s Stanley Cup SchedulePittsburgh Penguins at Washington Capitals, 7 p.m. ET, NBC. Series is tied at 2-2.Winnipeg Jets at Nashville Predators, 9:30 pm., NBCSN. Series is tied at 2-2.Here’s a link to the Stanley Cup bracket as well as the rest of the NHL’s second-round schedule.                The Nashville Predators squared their series with the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday, as they played a sharp road game to earn a 2-1 victory in front of the Jets’ raucous fans.The Preds, who won the Presidents’ Trophy and made it to the Stanley Cup Final last year, hope to take advantage of their home ice Saturday night so they can take a 3-2 series lead.Goalie Pekka Rinne was magnificent in Game 4, bouncing back nicely after giving up five of the Jets’ seven goals in Game 3.P.K. Subban and Ryan Hartman scored for Nashville on Thursday, and Subban said his team was committed to playing hard on the defensive end of the ice.”I think the biggest thing is we had full commitment through our lineup to play defense,” Subban said, per Scott Billeck of NHL.com. “In our zone when bounces didn’t go our way, we worked the puck out of the zone. We got in the neutral zone, we got pucks deep, we forechecked when we needed to and we paid attention to the details.”The Preds and the Jets had the two best records in the league this year, and this has the look of a seven-game series.It may well come down to goaltending—a battle between Rinne and Winnipeg’s Connor Hellebuyck. Rinne has a 6-4 record with a 2.86 goals-against average and a .909 save percentage this postseason. Hellebuyck has a 6-3 record with a 2.32 GAA and a .931 save percentage.The Winnipeg netminder has been slightly better to this point, and if he can maintain that edge, it could allow the Jets to prevail in the series.


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