Oshie re­turns from big hits, scores win­ner

Go-ahead goal comes with 1:14 left in reg­u­la­tion in win over Pens

The Star Democrat - - SPORTS -

WASH­ING­TON (WPNS) — Be­cause it was the Wash­ing­ton Cap­i­tals and the Pitts­burgh Pen­guins, it started as Alex Ovechkin vs. Sid­ney Crosby, the two cap­tains and big­gest stars of their gen­er­a­tion, scor­ing the first two goals of the game. Then it be­came a goal­tend­ing duel with Wash­ing­ton’s Braden Holtby and Pitts­burgh’s Casey DeSmith keep­ing the score knot­ted at one.

It was ul­ti­mately T.J. Oshie who de­cided it, scor­ing the go-ahead goal with 1:14 left in reg­u­la­tion to de­liver the Cap­i­tals a 2-1 win over the Pen­guins. He’d been beaten and bruised all night with two sep­a­rate trips to the locker room be­cause of in­juries. But for­tu­nately for the Cap­i­tals, he was able to re­turn to the ice in time to de­liver the hero­ics.

The Cap­i­tals had Holtby to thank for the score be­ing tied late as he had his best per­for­mance in what has been a rocky start to the sea­son for him. He saved a whop­ping 41 shots.

With the game tied at 1 to start the third pe­riod, Cap­i­tals cen­ter Travis Boyd was called for hold­ing. Then on the power play, Pitts­burgh’s Ev­geni Malkin was called for an il­le­gal check to the head of Oshie when his el­bow col­lided with Oshie and knocked him to the ground. Malkin was ejected, and Oshie had to be helped off the ice and to the locker room. He re­turned later in the third pe­riod, just in time to de­liver the game-win­ner.

Malkin was as­sessed a ma­jor penalty, so Wash­ing­ton had nearly four min­utes of power-play time, and Pitts­burgh’s short­handed chances might have been of high­erqual­ity than any­thing the Cap­i­tals’ man-ad­van­tage pro­duced.

Both teams en­tered Wed­nes­day’s game with some­thing to prove, tied with 15 stand­ings points and an iden­ti­cal 6-4-3 record. The Pen­guins had lost four in a row, while the Cap­i­tals, ham­pered by in­con­sis­tency all sea­son, hoped to build on an en­cour­ag­ing per­for­mance against the Ed­mon­ton Oil­ers two nights ear­lier. But even with­out all of that, the two clubs have three Stanley Cups be­tween them in the past three years as un­ques­tion­ably the two best teams in that span. The four times they play each other ev­ery sea­son are op­por­tu­ni­ties to see how they mea­sure up com­pared to the other.

There’s a mu­tual re­spect in this ri­valr y, es­pe­cially with the re­cent suc­cess of both teams. The Cap­i­tals are try­ing to re­peat as cham­pi­ons, just as the Pen­guins achieved when they cap­tured the 2017 Stanley Cup after win­ning it the year be­fore. Pitts­burgh would pre­fer to get back to dis­pos­ing of Wash­ing­ton in the se­cond round of the play­offs.

“We’re proud of what we were able to ac­com­plish last year, but we also un­der­stand that they would like to be the champs again,” Cap­i­tals Coach Todd Reirden said be­fore the game. “Right now, this is a game that they’re point­ing to­wards and they feel is im­por­tant to kind of get things turned around for them.”

The game pre­dictably de­liv­ered some early drama. Less than five min­utes in, Pen­guins de­fense­man Olli Maatta clipped Oshie in the face with a high stick with the blade go­ing un­der Oshie’s vi­sor and catch­ing him in the eye. He was down on the ice in pain for sev­eral sec­onds be­fore skat­ing off on his own power, and he didn’t play the rest of the first pe­riod as he was tended to in the locker room. He re­turned in the se­cond frame and then got hurt again in the third.

AP PHOTO

Pen­guins cen­ter Sid­ney Crosby skates by as mem­bers of the Cap­i­tals in­clud­ing left wing Alex Ovechkin (8) and cen­ter Evgeny Kuznetsov (92) cel­e­brate a goal by right wing T.J. Oshie, se­cond from left, dur­ing the third pe­riod of Wed­nes­day’s game.

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