Wilson, Oshie help Capitals even series
TORONTO -- Tom Wilson scored two goals, but one he saved could have been the difference Wednesday night as the Washington Capitals defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-4 to even the Eastern Conference first-round playoff series 2-2.
T.J. Oshie also scored two goals for the Capitals, who built a 4-1 lead after one periods.
It might have been different had Wilson not sprawled to prevent a puck that had squirted past goaltender Braden Holtby from crossing the line in the first period.
On the ensuing rush the other way, Wilson tipped in his first of two goals of the opening period.
“Holtby has been so stellar for us and I know it’s going to probably hit him,” Wilson said, “I just had an eye on it and tried to make sure it stayed out of the net. Luckily it did. Those plays kind of go in slo-mo. I could see it sitting in his pants and I knew the shape of the puck, it was falling behind him and I just kind of had time to jump in and try to make a save.”
Alex Ovechkin scored the other Capitals’ goal while Nicklas Backstrom added two assists.
“It’s that time of year, there are some fabulous heroes,” Capitols coach Barry Trotz said. “Not always the ones that you think are going to be there. (Wilson) played the right way today. He played hard, he went to the net, got rewarded. I thought he was real strong at the end as well. High commitment. He’s a growing young player who is physically strong.”
Zach Hyman, James van Riemsdyk, Auston Matthews and Tyler Bozak scored for the Maple Leafs. Mitch Marner and William Nylander each had two assists.
“We weren’t very good; we weren’t ready to play,” Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock said. “They were more competitive than us at the start. In the faceoff circle, we never had the puck at the start, they dominated us there totally. We weren’t very good. In some ways, it was nice that we were able to score goals and get ourselves back into the game, but we didn’t play near as good as we had to or needed to.”
Holtby made 30 saves in the Capitals goal. Toronto goaltender Fredrik Andersen stopped 22 shots.
Washington led 4-2 after the second period.
The Capitals took two minor penalties in the final seven seconds of the second period -- Lars Eller for delay of game and Brooks Orpik for slashing -- giving the Maple Leafs a five-on-three power play to open the third period. Washington killed off both penalties.
“I thought we had some pretty good opportunities there,” Matthews said. “Holtby came up pretty big on some saves and you’ve got to credit them with some pretty good structure there. We had a five-on-three, fresh ice, down by two goals, that’s a time you definitely need to score.”
The Capitals also were denied in Game 3 on a five-on-three power play.
“When you don’t score there, it’s deflating a little,” Oshie said. “A great job by our killers, desperation, obviously, a good job by Holtby.”
One of the subtle adjustments by Washington was to move Wilson up to the third line.
“He has been one of our more steady players in the playoffs so far,” Oshie said. “Everyone knows what his role is but he’s given us a jolt when we’ve needed it with a hit, with a great forecheck, a blocked shot.”
The Capitals put the puck in the net at 8:11 of the third but it was disallowed because of goaltender interference.
Matthews cut the lead to one with his second playoff goal at 12:00 of the third on a rebound after Matt Hunwick’s shot from the point.
Oshie restored the two-goal margin 59 seconds later when he broke in alone uncontested to score from the slot.
With Andersen removed for an extra attacker, Bozak scored at 19:33 of the third.
As they did in Game 3, the Capitals scored the first two goals of the game early in the first period.
Oshie notched his first of the playoffs at 2:58, converting a rebound from the low slot.
One minute later, Bozak was penalized for high sticking and Ovechkin rifled his third goal of the playoffs from the left wing at 4:34.
Hyman scored for Toronto at 5:16 of the first period, his first of the playoffs as a shot by defenseman Jake Gardiner bounced in off his foot.
Toronto nearly scored again, but Wilson made his save. That set up a rush down the right wing by Eller, who circled behind the goal, and Wilson tipped it in t 13:41.
Wilson scored again, his third of the playoffs, at 16:04, from the low slot on a pass from Andre Burakovsky and Washington led 4-1.
The Capitals outshot the Maple Leafs 15-6 in the first period.
Toronto scored a power-play goal at 5:39 of the second period, the second of the series by van Riemsdyk, whose shot from the right circle deflected off a defender. Backstrom was serving a holding-the-stick minor.
NOTES: Capitals D Karl Alzner (upper-body injury) missed his second straight game Wednesday. When he missed Game 3, it ended his streak of 599 consecutive regular-season (540) and playoff games (59) played since 2010. ... Toronto D Roman Polak (right leg) had surgery Tuesday after being injured in Game 2. “It went well,” Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock said Wednesday before the game. “His rehab is going to be a long time.” ... Game 5 is set for Friday in Washington.