RAKING THE LEAFS

Wil­son’s over­time goal lifts Cap­i­tals to Game 1 win over Leafs

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY NORA PRINCIOTTI

Wash­ing­ton Cap­i­tals wing Tom Wil­son cel­e­brates his over­time goal with cen­ter Jay Bea­gle (83) and left wing Daniel Win­nik against the Toronto Maple Leafs dur­ing Game 1 of their Stan­ley Cup first-round play­off se­ries on Thurs­day at the Ver­i­zon Cen­ter. The Cap­i­tals won, 3-2.

Lead­ing up to Thurs­day’s opener of the Wash­ing­ton Cap­i­tals’ se­ries against the Toronto Maple Leafs, Justin Williams made his play­off phi­los­o­phy clear.

“It’s pretty darn sim­ple,” the Cap­i­tals for­ward said Tues­day. “We were kicked in the teeth last year. There’s only so many times you get kicked be­fore you fight back and you over­come.”

It turned out to be Williams, whose play­off suc­cess (34 goals, three Stan­ley Cups) is well doc­u­mented, do­ing the fight­ing. His two goals saved the Cap­i­tals in reg­u­la­tion and set the stage for Tom Wil­son’s game-win­ner in over­time that gave Wash­ing­ton the 3-2 vic­tory Thurs­day.

The Cap­i­tals took another blow to the in­cisors first, though. Af­ter only 1:35 in the first, Toronto cen­ter Mitch Marner scored to put the Leafs on top. It took con­sid­er­able poise for Marner to get his stick on the puck, which ric­o­cheted off the post and at him, but be­tween two de­fend­ers.

The Leafs had come out faster and with more ag­gres­sion. With 10 play­ers, in­clud­ing Marner, tast­ing the play­offs for the first time, Toronto dic­tated the game’s pace and style just as the Cap­i­tals had promised they them­selves would do.

The Cap­i­tals got an­gry, but not in a way that helped their com­po­sure or abil­ity to hang onto the puck. Three min­utes af­ter Marner’s goal, Wash­ing­ton cen­ter Lars Eller found him­self in the penalty box for cross-check­ing. The fans in the stands took is­sue with the call and loudly ex­pressed their dis­dain for the ref­eree, but their jeers were rooted in loy­alty rather than fact. Eller had cross-checked a Leafs player, who had fallen to the ice, rather ag­gres­sively.

Eller’s team­mates killed off the penalty with­out al­low­ing a Maple Leafs shot, find­ing some com­po­sure, but con­tin­ued to turn the puck over and make men­tal er­rors on de­fense. Toronto went up 2-0 af­ter 9:44 when de­fense­man Jake Gar­diner scored unas­sisted.

The Leafs cel­e­brated the goal im­me­di­ately, only to see it waived off ini­tially for goalie in­ter­fer­ence. Toronto coach Mike Bab­cock chal­lenged the rul­ing, which was over­turned, putting the Cap­i­tals in a two-goal hole.

A pair of penal­ties by the Leafs helped get the Cap­i­tals on the board. Cen­ter Brian Boyle was sent to the box af­ter 10:22 for in­ter­fer­ence, and cen­ter Zach Hy­man fol­lowed him 30 sec­onds later for trip­ping, giv­ing Wash­ing­ton 1:30 of 5-on-3. At the very end of it, Williams scored, as­sisted by line-mate T.J. Oshie and de­fense­man Kevin Shat­tenkirk, cut­ting the deficit in half. Tech­ni­cally, his goal came two sec­onds af­ter the 5-on-3 ended, so the game re­verted to 5-on-5 im­me­di­ately af­ter­ward.

It took un­til the end of the sec­ond pe­riod for the Cap­i­tals to seize mo­men­tum, but goalie Braden Holtby kept them in the game un­til then. At one point in the sec­ond, Toronto was out­shoot­ing Wash­ing­ton 12-7, but Holtby stopped ev­ery puck.

Af­ter 16 min­utes in the pe­riod his coun­ter­part, Fred­erik An­der­sen, could not say the same. Matt Niska­nen sent the puck in front of the net and Williams fin­ished the play, tap­ping the puck un­der­neath An­der­sen’s pads and ty­ing the game, 2-2.

Just af­ter Williams’ sec­ond goal, Toronto’s Matt Martin was sent to the box for cross-check­ing and the Cap­i­tals got another power play to main­tain the mo­men­tum.

It took un­til mid­way through the third pe­riod for the Cap­i­tals to pull even in shots. They fin­ished reg­u­la­tion with a 38-35 ad­van­tage but a num­ber of fan­tas­tic glove-saves from An­der­sen sent the game to over­time.

That’s where Wil­son won it, whip­ping the puck in be­hind An­der­son af­ter 5:15 in the over­time pe­riod. Ear­lier in the week Trotz had said that the Cap­i­tals’ ex­pe­ri­ence might not shine through un­til the pres­sure was truly on and, hav­ing lost their last two over­time play­off games, the pres­sure had ar­rived and Wil­son was up to the mo­ment.

“I think the ex­pe­ri­ence comes in when your back’s against the wall or you have those big mo­ments,” Trotz had said. “And you don’t re­ally get to go through those ex­pe­ri­ences un­til you ac­tu­ally, it ac­tu­ally hap­pens to you.”

The Cap­i­tals took yet another blow, but bounced back, and ul­ti­mately gave their op­po­nents a shakier foun­da­tion to kick from.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

ASSOCIATED PRESS

The Wash­ing­ton Cap­i­tals’Justin Williams scores against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the sec­ond pe­riod Thurs­day in Game 1 of the first-round play­off se­ries. The Cap­i­tals won, 3-2.

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