For three fans, a cool re­cep­tion

But Caps and Ovechkin show that they ap­pre­ci­ate their sup­port­ers in Toronto

The Washington Post - - WASHINGTONPOST.COM/SPORTS - BY SCOTT ALLEN

Af­ter T. J. Oshie scored to give the Wash­ing­ton Cap­i­tals a two-goal ad­van­tage in the third pe­riod Wed­nes­day, CBC’s broad­cast cut to a feed of the scene out­side Toronto’s Air Canada Cen­tre, where thou­sands of fans had gath­ered to watch Game 4 of the first-round play­off se­ries on a large screen. Front and cen­ter, amid a sea of blue-clad, dejected Maple Leafs sup­port­ers, a trio in red cel­e­brated — and cap­tured the ad­mi­ra­tion of Alex Ovechkin and Cap­i­tals fans ev­ery­where.

Carter Thornton, 18, was born and raised just out­side of Toronto, but he has been a Cap­i­tals fan — with a room full of mem­o­ra­bilia to prove it — for as long as he can re­mem­ber. He wore an Oshie jer­sey Wed­nes­day and ar­rived shortly af­ter 6 p.m. with his friend and fel­low Cap­i­tals fan Con­nor Ar­buckle, who wore an Ovechkin sweater. Thornton and Ar­buckle met up with Sulei­mon Raji, one of the few non-Leafs fans they had en­coun­tered in Maple Leaf Square dur­ing Game 3 two days ear­lier. Raji, a 24-year-old stu­dent at York Univer­sity, was easy to spot in his Ovechkin T-shirt.

Be­fore Thornton set out for Maple Leaf Square in an Ovechkin jer­sey Mon­day, his fa­ther Joe, a die-hard Toronto fan, warned him not to say any­thing that might rile up the pre­dom­i­nantly pro-Leafs crowd. On Wed­nes­day, it was im­pos­si­ble for him to con­tain his ex­cite­ment af­ter Oshie’s sec­ond goal of the game.

The back­lash must have been bru­tal. What were th­ese guys think­ing?

“Every­one was just boo­ing me be­cause I had the Oshie jer­sey on and Con­nor had the Ovechkin jer­sey on, and we were just go­ing crazy,” Thornton said. That’s it? “Hon­estly, it was just all boos, that’s it,” said Raji, who shouted, ‘Woo, it’s over, boys!’ as he turned and raised his arms in tri­umph fol­low­ing Oshie’s tally. “Just boos. Noth­ing else. A cou­ple of peo­ple were like, ‘Get out of here,’ but that’s about it.”

It’s un­clear whether the kind Cana­di­ans in the crowd would have mus­tered so much as a curse word had they known Raji is a Fly­ers fan who hap­pens to de­spise the Leafs de­spite liv­ing in Toronto all his life. He said he bought the Ovechkin T-shirt at the SportChek in Maple Leaf Square a cou­ple of weeks ago, when it was clear Philadel­phia wouldn’t qual­ify for the playoffs.

Raji also said he wouldn’t think of pulling a sim­i­lar stunt in an­other city.

“I would never go to the States and do that,” Thornton agreed.

Af­ter Wed­nes­day’s 5-4 win, Cap­i­tals blog Rus­sian Ma­chine Never Breaks named Thornton, Ar­buckle and Raji its “first star of the night,” and the Cap­i­tals saluted the trio on Twit­ter. Ovechkin posted a short clip of their cel­e­bra­tion on his In­sta­gram feed with the cap­tion, “We love our fans, be­cause they are the best!”

“He’s been my fa­vorite player for years, so it’s pretty crazy that he posted about us,” Thornton said of Ovechkin’s post. Ex­cerpted from wash­ing­ton­post.com/ dc­sports­bog

FRANK GUNN/ASSOCIATED PRESS

A goal by winger T.J. Oshie, left, was cause for cel­e­bra­tion from three Toronto-based fans root­ing for the Cap­i­tals.

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