Wil­son helps even se­ries for Cap­i­tals

Scores a pair, saves one in Game 4 win af­ter third-line move

The Washington Times Daily - - SPORTS - BY NORA PRINCIOTTI

TORONTO | For Wed­nes­day’s game against the Toronto Maple Leafs, Wash­ing­ton Cap­i­tals coach Barry Trotz tin­kered with the line­ups of his bot­tom-six for­wards. He wanted Tom Wil­son skat­ing on the third line with An­dre Bu­rakovsky and Lars Eller, so he swapped Wil­son with Brett Con­nolly, who moved down to the fourth line.

Why? Trotz thought Wil­son could bring more pro­duc­tion to the third line.

“He’s Tom Wil­son. Ev­ery­body knows who Tom Wil­son is. That’s what he brings,” Trotz said Wed­nes­day af­ter the new lines took the ice for the team’s morn­ing skate.

Ev­ery­body here does know Wil­son, who grew up in Toronto. No one, not here or in Wash­ing­ton, had ever seen him do what he did in the first pe­riod of Wed­nes­day’s Game 4, which the Cap­i­tals won, 5-4, at Air Canada Cen­tre.

It all started when Cap­i­tals goal­tender Braden Holtby set­tled a shot on his chest mid­way through the first. Holtby thought he cleared the shot, and only Wil­son saw it roll un­der his pads and through his legs. With a swan dive into the net, Wil­son knocked the puck away and saved a cer­tain goal.

Then, go­ing back the other way, Wil­son scored off a play from Eller and Dmitry Orlov. In the same shift, he’d saved a goal and scored one — and he wasn’t done yet.

On his next shift, Wil­son scored again on a rush with Bu­rakovsky. The first two-goal game of his ca­reer came in the play­offs, against his home­town team in a piv­otal game that put the Cap­i­tals back into the thick of a sur­pris­ingly tight first-round se­ries.

In­stead of be­ing tied at two in the first pe­riod Wed­nes­day, the Cap­i­tals, thanks to Wil­son’s hero­ics and early goals from Alex Ovechkin and T.J. Oshie, were lead­ing 4-1.

Maple Leafs coach Mike Bab­cock had said Mon­day that if the Cap­i­tals had stretched their lead to 4-1, his team wouldn’t have been able to come back from that deficit. On Wed­nes­day, it seemed the Cap­i­tals were threat­en­ing to have a state­ment game like the San Jose Sharks, an­other vet­eran team backed into a cor­ner, had put to­gether the night be­fore in a 7-0 rout of the Oil­ers.

The Cap­i­tals, though, fig­ured the Leafs would put up a fight.

“We know our as­pi­ra­tions, our as­pi­ra­tions are cer­tainly as big as they get,” Justin Wil­liams said Wed­nes­day morn­ing. “It’s very rare when you see a team waltz their way all the way to the Stan­ley Cup. It doesn’t hap­pen. And if it

does, it’s very few and far be­tween. You go through ad­ver­sity on your way there. I’ve been on a cou­ple of cham­pi­onship teams down 0-2, down 0-3, so you rally around it. There’s a lot of times dur­ing the play­offs where you need to man up and win a game and the pressure is on. This is one of them, ob­vi­ously.”

Wil­liams was right. The Cap­i­tals got the win they needed to re­turn to D.C. with home ice but, as has been the case in ev­ery game this se­ries, the mar­gin of vic­tory was a sin­gle goal.

Ev­ery time the Cap­i­tals started to pull away, the Maple Leafs scored. Just af­ter Ovechkin made it 2-0 with an­other vin­tage strike from the left cir­cle, Zach Hy­man scored for the Leafs.

Af­ter Wil­son dom­i­nated the first pe­riod, the Maple Leafs pulled back in the sec­ond. Nick­las Back­strom went to the box for hold­ing the stick and James van Riems­dyk scored from the right cir­cle to make it 4-2 early in the pe­riod. Then, Eller and Brooks Or­pik both took penal­ties within the last 10 sec­onds of the sec­ond pe­riod, forc­ing the Cap­i­tals to kill 1:54 of a 5-on-3 to start the third.

The Cap­i­tals were out­shoot­ing the Leafs 24-15 go­ing into the third pe­riod but the penalty kill was shap­ing up to be a piv­otal mo­ment.

The Maple Leafs pres­sured the whole way but Holtby was sharp and the Cap­i­tals killed it off cleanly. The kill swung mo­men­tum in Wash­ing­ton’s fa­vor for a few min­utes but still, the Maple Leafs wouldn’t stay down. Aus­ton Matthews scored for the sec­ond-straight game af­ter 12 min­utes in the third, mak­ing it a one-goal game again.

Oshie coun­tered with his sec­ond goal, tak­ing ad­van­tage of a poor de­fen­sive shift from Matthews, which put the Cap­i­tals up by two again un­til Tyler Bozak scored with 25 sec­onds left to give the game its fi­nal tally.

The Cap­i­tals and Maple Leafs will play Game 5 at Ver­i­zon Cen­ter Fri­day night. If it’s any­thing like the first four, it’ll be a close one.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Wash­ing­ton Cap­i­tals cen­ter Lars Eller cel­e­brates team­mate Tom Wil­son’s goal in the first pe­riod of a 5-4 win on Wed­nes­day.

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