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After getting a much-needed win in Wednesday night’s 5-4 thriller in Toronto, the Capitals followed that up with an epic 2-1 overtime win in front of their home crowd to take a 3-2 series lead.
The first period got off to a solid start for both the Capitals and Maple Leafs, as each team traded chances. Both teams played solid defense, although the Caps managed 11 shots on net to Toronto’s six. The Caps continued to struggle in the faceoff dot, winning just 45.5% of the draws compared to the Leafs’ 54.5%.
The truly concerning moment of the first was the injury to Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin, who sustained an apparent knee injury after a nasty hip check to the knee from Maple Leafs forward Nazem Kadri. Kadri was handed a two-minute minor tripping penalty, much to the chagrin of the Verizon Center crowd. On the ensuing power play, the Capitals took a late 1-0 lead to the dressing room on a goal from right wing T.J. Oshie, with assists from Nicklas Backstrom and Kevin Shattenkirk.
Ovechkin is hurt by a hit from Kadri pic.twitter.com/Ct2XJIdTNc
— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) April 21, 2017
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) April 21, 2017
The second period started with some good news for the Caps, as Ovechkin started the period on the ice and celebrated his return with a solid check on Toronto defender Jake Gardiner.
Despite sustaining pressure early on, the Maple Leafs would be the first team to strike in the middle frame, as rookie phenom Auston Matthews put his third goal of the series past Braden Holtby to knot the game at one. William Nylander and Zach Hyman were credited with the helpers on Matthews’ goal. Despite a barrage of chances for both clubs, the score would remain tied heading into the final frame. The shots would show the balance of chances for both teams, as the Caps led 15-14 in shots through two periods of play. The Caps improved their faceoff wins as well, as they had won 50% of the game’s draws through 40 minutes of play. The Capitals continued to amp their physical play, leading the Leafs 24-17 in hits through two.
Auston Matthews. Backhand, forehand, tie game pic.twitter.com/cGkvCydlSo
— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) April 22, 2017
After killing off a Matt Niskanen slashing penalty, the Caps were given a man-advantage of their own after Maple Leafs defenseman Jake Gardiner caught T.J. Oshie up high. Despite some good looks, they were unable to generate a whole lot. After both teams were again given the chance for a man-advantage, and some very close calls (for both Holtby and Toronto netminder Frederik Andersen), neither team was able to solve the other’s goaltender, and for the fourth of five games, the Capitals and Maple Leafs headed into sudden death overtime.
After back-and-forth hockey, with both teams trading chances and scoring opportunities, three-time Stanley Cup champion and renowned playoff hero Justin Williams put a bullet of a shot (the only shot of the overtime period) past Maple Leafs goaltender Frederik Andersen to give the Caps a 2-1 win and 3-2 lead in the best of seven series. The Caps now face the challenge closing the series in Toronto on Sunday night. As Capitals TV Play-by-Play announcer Joe Beninati put it: ” That’s clutch with a capital “C”.
Justin Williams takes advantage of a boatload of room and the Caps win Game 5 by a score of 2-1 in overtime pic.twitter.com/JzSb9ZjtHR
— Jeff Veillette (@JeffVeillette) April 22, 2017
By Michael Fleetwood