Here are the best and worst moments from the Capitals’ 2-1 overtime win in Game 5.
Worst of the worst: For the fourth time in five games, the Capitals and Maple Leafs couldn’t settle things in regulation, so they headed to OVERTIME. Extra hockey in the playoffs hasn’t been good to the Capitals over the years, but they did win Game 1 at Verizon Center in OT. This probably summed up most fans’ feelings during intermission.
— Japers' Rink (@JapersRink) April 22, 2017
Best of the best: The stress was short-lived and catching the last Metro train was never a real concern, because Justin Williams beat Freddie Andersen 64 seconds into overtime to give Washington a 2-1 win and a 3-2 lead in the series. Game 6 is Sunday in Toronto. Marcus Johansson and Evgeny Kuznetsov had the assists on Mr. Game 7’s game-winner.
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) April 22, 2017
Best celebration: YEAH BABY! Enjoy your Saturday.
Worst offense: Game 4 of this high-scoring series featured three goals in the first six minutes. Game 5 featured two goals and a combined 52 shots through 60 minutes. The Capitals managed only four shots and didn’t score in the second period, partly because they were whistled for five penalties in the frame.
Best chances: Two of Washington’s better scoring chances of the game came in the final minute of the third period, but Andersen denied Kuznetsov and Williams to increase the likelihood that Capitals fans will visit a cardiologist in the not too distant future.
Worst penalties: Tom Wilson, who scored two goals on Wednesday, had four minor penalties through the first two-and-a-half periods on Friday, which isn’t as good. Wilson didn’t take a shift in regulation after his fourth penalty.
Best penalty kill: Wilson’s second penalty, for tripping, gave the Maple Leafs their first power play of the game midway through the second period, but Washington’s PK unit bailed him out and Braden Holtby made a sprawling save on Nazem Kadri a minute later at full strength to keep the game tied at one goal apiece. Washington also killed off a Jay Beagle penalty for hooking in the second period.
Worst slash or dive: Did Kadri embellish this slash by Matt Niskanen a bit? That depends who you ask, but it was a penalty nonetheless, and coupled with Wilson’s unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, it gave Toronto a five-on-four advantage to start the third period. The Capitals killed it off.
Watch Matt Niskanen on the play. Kadri didn't dive. That was actually an extremely hard slash that most of us didn't notice. pic.twitter.com/TCHyFoa7jf
— Jeff Veillette (@JeffVeillette) April 22, 2017
Worst sight: Alex Ovechkin went head over heels on a hit from Kadri with 2:28 remaining in the first period and remained facedown on the ice for several tense moments. Kadri was assessed a two-minute penalty for tripping, instead of the major penalty that the Capitals wanted, while Ovechkin had to be helped to the dressing room. During the first intermission, NBC Sports Network’s Mike Milbury said Kadri’s check was dirty, but also perfectly legal. (The Capitals’ captain was back for the start of the second period.)
Ovechkin is hurt by a hit from Kadri pic.twitter.com/Ct2XJIdTNc
— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) April 21, 2017
Best lead: Less than a minute into the ensuing power play, T.J. Oshie’s third goal of the series made the Maple Leafs pay and gave Washington a 1-0 lead. The team that has scored first is 2-2 in the first four games of the series.
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) April 21, 2017
Best sign: If there were any questions about whether Ovechkin was at full strength after his injury scare, he answered them by smashing Jake Gardiner into the glass early in the second period.
Best rookie: After a quiet start to his first postseason, Maple Leafs rookie Auston Matthews had two goals and an assist in Games 3 and 4. Matthews, who scored 40 goals during the regular season, scored his third goal of the playoffs six minutes into the second period on a rebound off a shot by William Nylander to tie the game 1-1.
Auston Matthews scores his third goal of the playoffs to tie the game for the Leafs, 1-1 pic.twitter.com/vzDyhJR8Lv
— Jeff Veillette (@JeffVeillette) April 22, 2017
Best glove: Andersen absolutely robbed Kuznetsov with a glove save with 3:39 remaining in the first period. Kuznetsov was convinced the puck crossed the goal line, but a replay review upheld the call the on the ice — no goal.
Frederik Andersen with a massive save on Evgeny Kuznetsov pic.twitter.com/veTB65CSfg
— Jeff Veillette (@JeffVeillette) April 21, 2017
Worst stretch: Holtby continued to lead all goalies in career playoff save percentage (minimum 40 games played), but the defending Vezina Trophy winner hadn’t been himself through the first four games of the series. “It’s one of those types of stretches where every bounce seems to be going the wrong way,” Holtby said after allowing four goals for the third straight game on Wednesday.
Best performance: Holtby looked strong early — like, really early — in Game 5. Twenty seconds after the opening face-off, he stoned Leo Komarov on a two-on-one. He finished the game with 24 saves.
Worst nerves: After Komarov’s golden opportunity, the scoring chances for either team in the first period were few and far between.
Best excitement: A referee using a hockey stick to bat an orange balloon that floated over the ice was the biggest highlight of the first 13 minutes of the game, and that’s not an exaggeration.
Slight delay due to a rogue balloon. pic.twitter.com/iTGw1g9W5d
— Shawn McKenzie (@ShawnMcKenzieSN) April 21, 2017
Best hit: Ovechkin provided some non-helium-filled excitement by lighting up Gardiner moments later.
Best place to watch the game in Toronto: Everyone’s favorite Internet-famous Leafs fan, Dart Guy, didn’t make the trip to Verizon Center for Game 5. Instead, he was in Maple Leaf Square outside of Air Canada Centre, watching the game on a large screen with thousands of Toronto faithful (and a few Caps fans).
— The Maz (@LeafsMaz20) April 22, 2017
Best streak: A first-round series that many pundits expected to be a cakewalk for the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Capitals has been reduced to a best-of-three, with two of those games at Verizon Center. Washington has now won its last four Game 5s when the series was tied two games apiece.
Best pregame listening: Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s “Relax.”
#Caps playing a montage to "Relax" in pregame. Think that's a message to the fans?
— Aaron Oster (@TheAOster) April 21, 2017
Best captain: With goals in goals in three straight games, Ovechkin entered Friday’s contest with 44 goals and 85 points in 88 career playoff games. His .5 goals per playoff game is the best mark among active players (minimum 40 games played).
Best T-shirt: #Squad.
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) April 21, 2017
Game 5: Washington Capitals (1st place, 55-19-8, 118 points) vs. Toronto Maple Leafs (wild card 2, 40-27-15, 95 points)
Date and time: Friday, 7 p.m.
Location: Verizon Center
Game 1 result: at Capitals 3, Maple Leafs 2 (OT)
Game 2 result: Maple Leafs 4, at Capitals 3 (2OT)
Game 3 result: at Maple Leafs 4, Capitals 3 (OT)
Game 4 result: Capitals 5, at Maple Leafs 4
Regular season series: Capitals 2, Maple Leafs 1
Game 6: Sunday in Toronto, TBD (TBD)
Game 7 (if necessary): Tuesday in Washington, TBD (CSN)
Everything you need to know
>> If it looks as if Braden Holtby is battling the puck at the moment, it’s because he is. Perhaps none of the 14 goals he has allowed over the course of four games of this playoff series against the Maple Leafs is particularly egregious. But with this enthralling series tied at two games apiece heading back to Verizon Center Friday night, one of the Capitals’ obvious strengths — Holtby, the reigning Vezina Trophy winner as the NHL’s best goalie, and a candidate again this year — has become a bit of a wobbly question mark, writes Barry Svrluga. How did that happen?
>> Braden Holtby is partially to blame for the Capitals inability to shut the door on a feisty Toronto squad, especially when dealing with high-danger chances, those that originate in the slot or the crease: his save percentage against these shots has fallen off a cliff, dropping to a career low .771 against Toronto during this series. Perhaps backup goaltender Philipp Grubauer would fare slightly better — his regular-season save percentage on high-danger shots at even strength (.837) was higher than Holtby’s (.822) — but that still wouldn’t improve the Caps’ defense, which has left Holtby out to dry on more than a few occasions during this series.
>> Tom Wilson had dreamed of celebrations at Air Canada Centre just like this one — stick in the air, helmet askew from teammates joyfully mobbing him, a bench of players leaning over and waiting for him to skate by and bump fists. A Toronto native, Wilson had probably once envisioned doing just that in a blue Toronto Maple Leafs jersey, but the Capitals have never been so happy to see him in their road whites. In a bit of light hyperbole, The Post’s Dan Steinberg went so far as to label Wilson’s play “his best shift ever.”
>> Mercifully, there was no need for extra periods in Game 4. The victory also answered a lot of the questions that surfaced in Washington’s back-to-back overtime losses. Here are the best and worst moments from the game.
>> “Right now, he’s making a statement going, ‘You’re not getting my spot back,’ ” Coach Barry Trotz said of Nate Schmidt, who got a second assist in as many games and could have had a goal were it not waved off for goaltender interference. “That’s good on Nate.”
>> Before the Red Sox started their title run in 2004, Bill Simmons wrote about how he wanted the Red Sox to win the World Series not just because he wanted to win a championship, but because it would make the Red Sox a “normal” team. He meant that every time the Sox lost a playoff game before 2004, they couldn’t just lose, they were always “cursed.” And in the hours since the Caps lost to Toronto on Monday night, Eric Fingerhut finally understood what Simmons meant. The Caps can’t just lose anymore — they’re always “chokers.”
>> The local teams took turns congratulating themselves Wednesday for their second-ever triple play, the rare “D.C. sports trifecta.” But it didn’t come without some heart-stopping moments. “They make you work hard for your fun, though, don’t they?” wondered Dan Steinberg.
>> Something appears wrong with these Capitals now that they’ve reached the postseason. The team that won 50 games during the regular season to earn the playoffs top seed is suddenly on its heels against the No. 8 seed in the East. Three hockey experts were surveyed as to what they think is the problems are for Washington: Lack of speed, mistakes and matchups. “There’s no other way to say this, but the Leafs are making Washington look slow at times, ” Pierre LeBrun said.
>> Alex Ovechkin was credited with just 15:08 of ice time on Monday night, the second lowest in a playoff contest for his career. So, why did the team’s captain play so little in a crucial Game 3 on the road? “That’s on me to get him in the ice time,” Coach Barry Trotz said. “ … It wasn’t based on play. I thought Ovi was playing terrific. It’s on me to get him a little more ice time, no question.”
>> There are two camps assessing the Capitals, writes Post columnist Barry Svrluga. One group believes a deficit can be overcome. The other camp says: “Holy $&%&#@, not again.” Whichever camp you call in, one thing is certain: The Capitals are not normal participants in playoff hockey. They have their history, and it colors every tense situation.
>> The Capitals now face a crossroads between champions and chokers, writes Post columnist Thomas Boswell. All year the Caps have yammered about how they want to win a Stanley Cup and that, without a doubt, they have the team character, depth of talent and lack of weaknesses to grab that Cup. Now they need to prove it.
>> Since Alex Ovechkin made his postseason debut in 2007-08, the Capitals have lost 17 of their 87 playoff games in overtime, which is more than any other team during that span.
>> Have you ever wondered why they’re called the Toronto Maple Leafs and not Maple Leaves? Yeah? Well, don’t worry: We asked around on your behalf.
>> The expectation was that the Capitals would have an easy time against the Maple Leafs, who didn’t clinch their postseason berth until the second-to-last game. But to Washington’s credit, it never underestimated the young, feisty Maple Leafs. “I think it’s exactly what we thought it would be coming in,” defenseman Brooks Orpik said.
>> A decade ago, before a trip to Washington carried all kinds of stakes and expectations, the empty, untouched ice made William Nylander feel like a professional hockey player. He was 11 years old then and his father, Michael Nylander, played for the Capitals. “You see those guys doing it. You look up to them, and you think they are so cool,” William Nylander said. “It made me want to get there, and it also made me think it was possible.” That ambition eventually led Nylander to the Maple Leafs, the team now pushing the top-seeded Capitals in the first round.
>> Meet the Toronto super fan who paints his face with a maple leaf, shaves the Stanley Cup into the top of the head and “GO LEAFS” into the back of his head, and dyes both that hair and the hair on his chin different shades of blue.
>> The Post’s Dan Steinberg argues that the Capitals actually deserve to win the Stanley Cup this year: “There’s not much more you can say about the most complete Capitals team we’ve ever seen. They had the most points in the NHL this season, the best goal differential, the fewest goals allowed, the most wins at home. They had the best goal differential in the first period, and the best goal differential in the third period. They had 59 points in their first 41 games, and 59 points in their last 41 games. They were the best hockey team out there, and it wasn’t that close.”
>> We all know the decade-long narrative for the Capitals: They’re a talented team that can’t get past the second round. Why is this year different? Here are five reasons to be optimistic about the team’s Stanley Cup chances, and because this is the Capitals, the five reasons to be pessimistic.
>> Meanwhile, Fancy Stats’ Neil Greenberg makes the case that, despite their reputation, the Capitals aren’t chokers in the playoffs: “The tendency is to set postseason expectations based on regular season performance, but history shows this to be a bit unfair. For example, only eight of the last 31 Presidents’ Trophy winners — awarded to the team with the best overall record during the regular season — have won the Stanley Cup. Just three others made the Stanley Cup Finals. In the NBA, by comparison, the team with the most wins has gone on to win a title 14 times in that same span, with two others making the NBA Finals.”
>> “I think this is the time for the Washington Capitals.” So says NBC analyst Eddie Olczyk, who is far from alone in his prediction. As for the Capitals’ Kevin Shattenkirk, he urges nervous fans to let go of the past and think happy thoughts: “I think not worrying about what happened in the past, it’s hard to do, but you need to push it out of your mind.”
>> Five years ago, goaltender Braden Holtby was a quirky curiosity who hadn’t yet endured the most discouraging developments of a young career. Entering these playoffs, Holtby is nothing short of a franchise backbone, a reason to have confidence rather than questions. There’s no overstating the importance of that development, writes Barry Svrluga.
>> The list of similarities between the Capitals and their first-round postseason adversary is short — Toronto is the youthful upstart team and Washington is the veteran one familiar with this stage. But nine years ago, the Capitals were in the same position as these Maple Leafs, a young core making the playoffs for the first time.