Leafs on verge of elimination as Capitals take OT win in Game 5
Jonas Siegel, The Canadian Press
Published Friday, April 21, 2017 10:29PM EDT
Last Updated Friday, April 21, 2017 10:51PM EDT
WASHINGTON - The Toronto Maple Leafs gave the Presidents' Trophy-winners another scare, but head home on the verge of elimination.
Justin Williams beat Frederik Andersen five-hole 1:04 into overtime as the Washington Capitals snatched Game 5 on Friday 2-1. They now lead the best-of-seven series 3-2 with a chance to eliminate the Leafs in Game 6 at the Air Canada Centre on Sunday night.
Four of the five games between the two teams have been decided in overtime.
Auston Matthews scored his third goal of the playoffs in defeat for Toronto and Andersen made 26 saves.
T.J. Oshie also found the back of the net for Washington and Holtby stopped 24-of-25 shots.
The Leafs were coming off what they believed to be their least competitive game of the series, a 5-4 loss at home in Game 4 in which they were bullied for two periods by a hungry Capitals squad.
They managed a better effort in Game 5.
A low-chance, but fast-paced opening frame in Game 5 was rocked with about two and a half minutes left when Alex Ovechkin was hit by Nazem Kadri. The Leafs centre went low to deliver an apparent hip-check at the Washington blue line, but ended up striking the left knee of the Washington captain.
Ovechkin briefly tried to get up but remained down on the ice in obvious discomfort. His teammates furiously pursued Kadri, who couldn't seem to believe that he was being assessed a tripping penalty.
“How is that a penalty?” Kadri appeared to say to officials.
Ovechkin eventually had to be helped off the ice and he put no pressure on his left leg while doing so. The Verizon Center crowd, many clad in red Ovechkin jerseys, howled at the foul - which appeared to better meet the criteria for clipping as an “act of throwing the body...across or below the knees of an opponent.”
The Caps, who had a goal waved off earlier in the period, didn't miss with the power-play opportunity. Nicklas Backstrom fired a shot from the point that struck the crossbar, but Oshie stuffed in the rebound for the 1-0 lead. It was the third goal of the series for the American winger and fifth power-play goal for Washington.
Fans who howled furiously when Ovechkin left the ice in the first cheered in delight when he returned to start the second frame. The Leafs weren't so thrilled as Matt Martin chirped the 31-year-old seemingly for selling an injury to draw a penalty.
Ovechkin, in a show of his apparent return to full strength, delivered a healthy hit on Jake Gardiner on his first shift.
The Leafs pulled back six minutes into the frame on yet another goal from Matthews, who was named a finalist for the Calder trophy earlier in the week. The 19-year-old took advantage of some puck protection around the net by fellow rookie running mate, William Nylander, and then buried the rebound from his shot attempt.
It was a third straight game with a goal for Matthews, who went pointless in the first two games of the series. The Caps have struggled to slow him and his rookie linemates down - primarily employing the defensive pairing of Matt Niskanen and Dmitry Orlov as well as an Evgeny Kuznetsov-led second line.
“Just each game, myself personally, I feel like I've gotten better,” Matthews said before the game. “You kind of get more comfortable and know what to expect each and every night.”
The Leafs had multiple opportunities to go ahead a short while later, but failed to score or even generate a shot with successive power plays.
Then, late in the second, Ovechkin looked to settle a score with Kadri. He whacked the Leafs centre on the arm before Niskanen followed up with a slash to Kadri's right leg.
Again though, the Leafs could not score with the advantage and finished the night 0 for 4 on the power play.
This was a much tighter affair than the four that preceded it. Space was limited, the pace eventually slowed down and scoring chances were relatively few in number. Andersen needed a couple big stops late to send it to overtime.
Shots were 27-25 for Washington at the end of regulation.