Instead, the Capitals got the best of the Islanders, winning by the score of 5-1 in front of a raucous Verizon Center crowd and sending the series back to Long Island with the Isles trailing 3-2. The visitors played a physical first period, before the Capitals took over and controlled the rest of the contest.
"You can break the game down any way you, but if you don't manage the puck you're not going to win. That's the biggest story of tonight's game. It's the turnovers," Islanders Head Coach Jack Capuano said.
It was far from the disciplined, smart hockey that the Islanders had been playing for most of the series . The Islanders failed to clear the puck out of their zone, they allowed the capitals to control the pace of the game, and in the end they were severely outplayed.
The Islanders started off the game with some momentum, and an early first period fight between Anders Lee and Tom Wilson sparked the club into grabbing a lead 26 seconds later when Josh Bailey fired a shot that beat Braden Holtby to make it 1-0.
Evgeny Kuznetsov tied the game at the 9:05 mark of the first, batting home a puck on the side of Jaroslav Halak's net. From there, the Capitals kept the pressure on the Islanders and forced Halak to spend the rest of the game making save after save. Washington eventually found the back of the net after Troy Brouwer poked the puck away from Halak in the second period, went behind the net and fed Karl Alzner to make it 2-1.
The goals piled on in the third as Kuznetsov found the back of the net again, along with Brooks Laich and Jason Chimera.
"It wasn't our best game," John Tavares said. "It starts with me and I have to set the tone."
Thursday night's performance was the Islanders' worst in the series so far and the team's decision making with the puck was less than impressive. Puck management is something that Capuano has spoken about numerous times during the course of the season, and it was a major reason why the Capitals looked so dominant after the first period on Thursday.
"We talk about it all the time and it's coming back to haunt us now," Capuano said. "You have to manage the puck. We're right there in the game. It's their building. Great crowd, great atmosphere to play in and you cough up the puck. That's the part of this game that teams thrive off and feed off.
"They came back in on a couple of those, and that was it."
Johnny Boychuck added: "You have to help Jaro out a little bit. Get pucks deep and not turn the puck over, and that's what happened. They eventually got a couple goals from it."
To add to the the frustration, the Islanders may be down yet another defenseman. Calvin de Haan left the game in the third period after taking a shoulder hit from Brouwer in the third. Capuano did not have any updates on his status.
Now the series returns to Long Island, with not just the season on the line, but the Coliseum's fate on the line. The start time for Game 6 has not yet been announced by the league.