Photo: Alex Brandon/AP
The Washington Capitals entered Saturday afternoon’s Game 5 contest with the Columbus Blue Jackets with the series deadlocked at two games apiece. The first two periods of Game 5 was a back and fourth affair. Then in the final 20 minutes with the Capitals ahead 3-2, the home team looked lost. This Capitals team, a team that outplayed the Blue Jackets throughout the first four games of the series, looked like they were sleepwalking through the third period.
Even after Oliver Bjorkstrand struck for the visitors at 2:30 in the third, the Capitals weren’t firing the puck and crashing the net. In fact, the Capitals only registered one shot in the period. That’s right, ONE. Things looked bad and it looked like there was a chance that the road team coming out on top would continue to be the trend. There was one big factor that kept the Capitals in the game and that was their goaltender Braden Holtby. The Blue Jackets shot the puck 16 times in the third. Bjorkstrand’s goal early in that period was the only goal he allowed.
“Holts was good. I look at it as the hockey gods giving something back from our last game at home,” Barry Trotz said. “We had a lot of shots, Holts made some big saves at key times, kept us in and gave us a good chance to win.”
That last home game, a 5-4 overtime defeat in Game 2, was a contest in which the Capitals had 58 shots on goal. That was 28 more shots than the Blue Jackets had. Once again in Game 5, the Capitals and their fans had to endure another overtime game.
The overtime period was a much better effort from the boys in red. Alex Ovechkin had a great look and nearly notched his first career playoff overtime goal. Later on, John Carlson had an even better opportunity from up close but Sergei Bobrovsky kept the Blue Jackets robbed him.
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“A little bit of experience kicked in. We just said ‘hey, let’s get on our toes and let’s go for it.’ That’s what we’ve wanted to do in the playoffs, go for it, and we’ve done that in overtimes,” said Trotz. “We’ve got good leadership in the room. As I was leaving the room after the (third) period I could hear the right guys all saying the right things.”
Finally the Capitals were rewarded as Nicklas Backstrom deflected a shot by Dmitry Orlov into the net at 11:53 to give the Capitals the 4-3 win. The playoff overtime game-winner put Backstrom in unique company but most importantly, it gave the Capitals a 3-2 series lead heading back to Columbus.
“He’s one of the leaders on our team. They were all talking about ‘let’s make sure we do all the right things.’ There’s a lot of pride, a lot of good leadership in that room,” added Trotz. “They’re battle tested. We’ve played a lot of overtime games so we’re pretty battle tested in that area so I think every time we play, we keep learning.”
John Tortorella is always a fun coach to watch in media interviews as the Blue Jackets bench boss is usually animated. He wasn’t his normal self when his team was up 2-0 in the series but now with Columbus on the ropes trailing their series 3-2 we got classic Torts after Game 5.
“We’ll be back here for Game 7,” said Tortorella.
Trotz was asked what he thought of Tortorella’s words.
“We’ll what else are you gonna say? That’s good,” Trotz responded. “He wants to get it out there. He believes in his team just as I believe in my team. It’s our job for that not to happen and we’re gonna try to do that.”
The Capitals and Blue Jackets will meet again on Monday night at Nationwide Arena in Columbus. The Capitals have already won there twice in this series and they’ll look to make the third time a charm to get them back to the second round.
“We’re gonna have to be real good in Columbus,” said Trotz. “They’re a very good team. They’re determined and so are we.”
By Michael Marzzacco