Marcus Johansson scored two goals to lead the Capitals to a 2-1, series-clinching win over the Maple Leafs in Toronto on Sunday. Here are the best and worst moments from Game 6:
Best goal: Six minutes 31 seconds into overtime, Marcus Johansson’s second goal of the game on a rebound off a shot by Justin Williams gave Washington a 2-1, series-clinching win at Air Canada Centre. The Capitals, who dominated the extra session, move on to play the Penguins in the second round. John Carlson earned the secondary assist on Johansson’s game-winner, but Evgeny Kuznetsov made the play possible by winning the faceoff in the offensive zone.
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) April 24, 2017
Best reaction inside Air Canada Centre: After watching the Valor (and Wizards) lose on Saturday, Ted Leonsis and son Zach looked relieved to see the Capitals start a new winning streak for Monumental Sports.
Best reaction outside Air Canada Centre: This was the scene outside the arena, where Capitals fans again celebrated a game-winning goal amid a sea of blue in Maple Leaf Square.
Maple Leafs Square reacts to Marcus Johansson OT winner. Two lone Capitals fans go crazy among a stunned crowd of Leafs fans. pic.twitter.com/gamFUha1MX
— Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett) April 24, 2017
Worst inevitability: For the fifth time in six games this series, 60 minutes wasn’t enough to determine a winner. Of course it wasn’t. This was the 18th overtime game of the first round, a new NHL record. It’s the 2017 Stanley Cup playoffs, presented by the American Heart Association.
"Siri, where is Overtime?"
"Overtime is where the Capitals play." https://t.co/wVp6PPjQE6
— Ben Standig (@BenStandig) April 24, 2017
Best equalizer: With 7:11 to play in regulation, Johansson and the Capitals finally solved Freddie Andersen, who finished with 34 saves. Johansson’s shot trickled through Andersen’s pads and just across the goal line to tie the game 1-1. Lars Eller and Brooks Orpik were credited with assists.
Worst bounce: The Capitals and Maple Leafs were scoreless more than seven minutes into the third period when Toronto’s Morgan Rielly dumped a puck into Washington zone. Rather than slide around the boards, as pucks typically do, Rielly’s lucky puck bounced off the stanchion of the glass and directly to the front of the net.
Best rookie: Maple Leafs rookie Auston Matthews took advantage of Toronto’s good fortune, getting to the puck ahead of Kuznetsov and lifting it over Braden Holtby’s left shoulder for a 1-0 Maple Leafs lead with 12:15 to play. Matthews, who scored 40 goals during the regular season, has scored in each of the last four games. That puts the 19-year-old in some rare company.
Forget the bounce for a second, just look at the liftoff Auston Matthews gets on the puck here to make it 1-0 Leafs. pic.twitter.com/sKpPqB6HBo
— Jeff Veillette (@JeffVeillette) April 24, 2017
Auston Matthews & Wendel Clark (1986) are the only teenagers to score a goal in 4 straight playoff games (via @eliassports)
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) April 24, 2017
Best robbery: A little more than two minutes later, Andersen robbed T.J. Oshie with a glove save to preserve Toronto’s 1-0 lead.
Frederik Andersen robs TJ Oshie from point blank range pic.twitter.com/FdBnjrNIl3
— Jeff Veillette (@JeffVeillette) April 24, 2017
Worst injury scare: Nate Schmidt headed to the dressing room after taking an apparent knee-on-knee hit from Leo Komarov with a little more than six minutes to play in the third period, but would later return.
Here’s the Komarov hit that hurt Schmidt pic.twitter.com/pbIGFweAyJ
— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) April 24, 2017
Worst job: Goal-horn operator at the Air Canada Centre during the first two periods of Game 6. For the first time this series, the Capitals and Maple Leafs headed to the first intermission without a goal. They didn’t score in the second period, either.
Best ride: This was an interesting way for Alex Ovechkin to get revenge for the low hit that gave him an injury scare in the first period of Game 5. Ovechkin bucked Nazem Kadri off his back, well shy of eight seconds, during the second period on Sunday.
Worst power play: A William Nylander holding penalty gave the Capitals a power play midway through the second period, but shorthanded Toronto registered the only shot on goal over the next two minutes.
Best sound: Ping! Or maybe, Clang! The sound the puck makes when it ricochets off the goalpost, which Holtby heard loud and clear on a slapshot from the point off the stick of Jake Gardiner eight minutes into the second period.
Best goalie: Two days after stopping 24 of 25 shots in an overtime win, Holtby stopped 37 of 38 shots in an overtime win. The defending Vezina Trophy winner seems to be back in a groove after he allowed four goals in three consecutive games.
Worst celebrity fan: Justin Bieber is at the Air Canada Centre and it seems that Capitals and Maple Leafs fans agree that’s not a good thing.
Worst jersey foul: Yes, it IS too late to say you’re sorry, Justin.
Best back-and-forth: Both teams had golden opportunities to get on the board in the first five minutes of the second period, but Kuznetsov and Andre Burakovsky couldn’t solve Andersen and Holtby denied Zach Hyman on the doorstep to preserve a 0-0 tie.
Best first-period save: Holtby and Andersen combined to make 24 saves in a scoreless first period that featured few prime scoring chances. One of Washington’s best came in the final minute, when Ovechkin whistled a shot on goal off a drop-pass from Nicklas Backstrom. Andersen made the save, and while he couldn’t locate the rebound, the puck was cleared out of harm’s way.
The Caps were THIS close to taking the lead pic.twitter.com/rk1DxNbBWc
— Ian Oland (@ianoland) April 23, 2017
Worst performance in the dot in the T Dot: The Capitals have fared better in the faceoff circle since the Maple Leafs dominated Games 1 and 2, but Toronto won 16 of 24 faceoffs in the first period and 39 of 51 faceoffs in the game. Kuznetsov won the battle that mattered most in OT.
Best penalty kill: The Maple Leafs had the first power play of a mostly uneventful first period after Marcus Johansson was called for hooking with 7:57 to play. It was short lived, as Toronto’s Tyler Bozak was sent off for high-sticking 22 seconds later. Neither team scored on the ensuing four-on-four, and Washington couldn’t cash in on its brief man-advantage.
— Neil Greenberg (@ngreenberg) April 23, 2017
Worst wipeout: The most exciting play of the first five minutes was Johansson taking out Andersen on a diving attempt to reach a lob pass from Kuznetsov.
Best opportunity: With Pittsburgh already resting up for the second round after eliminating Columbus in five games, the Capitals had a chance to close out the Maple Leafs in Toronto and avoid the physical and emotional toll of a Game 7. “You get an opportunity to push someone off a cliff, you need to push them off if you can,” Capitals Coach Barry Trotz said. “The difference is we’ve got a little bit of wiggle room. They don’t.”
— Craig Laughlin (@Laughlin18) April 23, 2017
Worst history: Not surprisingly, the Capitals’ clinch wasn’t a cinch. Coming into Sunday, Washington was only 5-15 during the Ovechkin era in games in which it could clinch a best-of-seven series. Since 2010, the Capitals were 1-5 in Game 6 when they had a 3-2 series lead. Make it 6-15 and 2-5.
— Ben Raby (@BenRaby31) April 23, 2017
Best confidence: Maple Leafs Coach Mike Babcock expected to be back in D.C. on Tuesday. After Friday’s loss, he told Verizon Center staffers as much. “They were being nice to me on the way out, saying have a good year,” Babcock said Saturday. “I said, ‘No, see you in a couple of days.’ In my mind and in my heart, that’s what I know is going to happen.” The Capitals were confident, too. “We’re ready to go home and say hello to the Verizon guys on Monday as well, just getting ready for series two,” defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said.
Worst power play: The Maple Leafs’ power play was the second best in the league during the regular season, but was only 3 for 18 in the series.
Worst cakewalk: The eighth-seeded Maple Leafs gave the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Capitals all they could handle in the series. Just how even has this series been? Washington has 16 goals on 175 shots on goal. Toronto has 15 goals on 175 shots on goal.
Best cat: Besides the fact that he or she is rooting for the wrong team…
— NHL (@NHL) April 23, 2017
Best dog: Good doggie.
For full coverage of this series, click here.
Game 6: Washington Capitals (1st place, 55-19-8, 118 points) vs. Toronto Maple Leafs (wild card 2, 40-27-15, 95 points)
Date and time: Sunday, 7 p.m.
Channel: CSN, NBC Sports
Location: Air Canada Centre, Toronto
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
Game 5 result: at Capitals 2, Maple Leafs 1 (OT)
Regular season series: Capitals 2, Maple Leafs 1
Game 7 (if necessary): Tuesday in Washington, TBD (CSN)
Everything you need to know
>> As Toronto Coach Mike Babcock exited Verizon Center on Friday night, his team on the brink of elimination after a 2-1 overtime loss in Washington, he assured arena staff on his way out that he’d be back for a Game 7: “See you in a couple days.” The Capitals’ response? “We’re ready to go home and say hello to the Verizon guys on Monday as well, just getting ready for series two,” Kevin Shattenkirk said.
>> The Capitals have Toronto on the brink of elimination going into Sunday night’s Game 6, and if the other games in this series are any indication, faceoffs could play a significant role. The Maple Leafs owned the Capitals on draws in the first two games of the series, and in Game 2, Washington won less than 40 percent of the faceoffs in the game. Since then, the Capitals have steadily improved and have won the majority of them. It’s helped Washington feel like it is in more control of the game.
>> All teams want to end every playoff series as soon as possible. For Game 6 against the Maple Leafs on Sunday night in Toronto, the Capitals have a whole mittful of extra reasons they can, they should and they better, writes The Post’s Thomas Boswell. In the past 15 postseasons, only two teams have gone on to win the Stanley Cup after being forced to a Game 7 in the first round. In fact, saving energy, avoiding winner-take-all games and shortening the length of as many series as possible is essential to postseason success.
>> Braden Holtby has a chance to repeat as the Vezina Trophy winner, given to the NHL’s top goaltender in the regular season. The NHL announced Holtby, Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky and the Montreal’s Carey Price as the three finalists Saturday. Holtby won the award at the end of last season, Price won it in 2015 and Bobrovsky took it home in 2013. This year’s winner will be announced at the NHL Awards in Las Vegas on June 21.
>> Capitals superstar forward Alex Ovechkin is expected to be “ready to go” for Sunday’s Game 6, Coach Barry Trotz said. Ovechkin had to be helped off the ice after a low hit by Toronto’s Nazem Kadri in the first period on Friday night, and he didn’t put any weight on his left leg as two teammates assisted him to the bench. “I was hoping he’s okay,” Kadri said. NBC Sports analyst Mike Millbury called it a “legitimate hip check.” But the moment with Ovechkin on the ice and no way to know what would come next represented something larger, writes Barry Svrluga. This was, in a perverse way, a reminder of what exactly Ovechkin means not just to these Capitals right now, but what he has meant to hockey in this city.
>> Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner is “improving” in his recovery from an undisclosed upper-body injury, Coach Barry Trotz said on Saturday. Alzner has been skating for the past three days, and on Friday, he participated in the morning skate with his teammates, indicating that he’s nearing a return to the lineup. With Alzner out for the past three games, Nate Schmidt has played, and his speed has been well-suited for this series against the slick-skating Maple Leafs. Schmidt has two assists, and he’s leading the team with a plus-four. It seems unlikely he’d be yanked out of the lineup at this point, so that leaves the Capitals with a tricky decision: Which blue-liner should sit to make room for Alzner?
>> Meanwhile, it didn’t matter to Trotz that forward Tom Wilson has been a playoff hero in this first-round series, scoring three goals, including the overtime winner in Game 1. Trotz lost his patience with the physical, 22-year-old winger on Friday night when he took four penalties, the last of which was an offensive zone high-sticking.
>> “That’s why he’s Justin” has resonance for possibly everyone who watched Game 5, other than the overtime hero himself. In truth, Justin Williams has never been very comfortable talking about all this, which makes some sense. If his playoff pressure spree is actually random — like hitting blackjack seven out of 10 hands, but only when you first recite the middle names of each of your great-aunts — you wouldn’t want to jinx it by talking about it. The ultimate playoff performer and proven winner, a three-time Stanley Cup champion nicknamed “Mr. Game 7” for his clutch production in those nerve-racking moments, Williams is at his best when the pressure is highest.
>> Braden Holtby basically admitted he was struggling heading into Game 5, but then he went out and won the series’ first true goalie battle. In a night full of breath-catching saves, it was Frederik Andersen who finally cracked in overtime. That left Braden Hotlby as the victorious goaltender celebrating in a mob of Capitals players, his one-goal, 24-save performance lifting the team to a Game 5 win. Here are the other key moments from Game 5.
>> 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.”
>> 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.
>> 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.