Overtime came at the perfect time for the Washington Capitals.
Outshot, outskated and outplayed by the Columbus Blue Jackets in a lopsided third period of Game 5, the Capitals went into their locker room at intermission Saturday with no choice but to talk about what went wrong in blowing yet another lead.
“We knew we had to be better,” Nicklas Backstrom said.
Better they were in a dominant overtime that Backstrom ended 11:53 in with his second goal of the game to give Washington a 4-3 victory and a 3-2 lead over the Blue Jackets in the first-round series. Thanks to goaltender Braden Holtby making 15 of his 39 saves in the third period and Backstrom’s first two goals of these playoffs, the Metropolitan Division champions can close out Columbus on the road Monday in Game 6.
“I think we’ve always regrouped at intermissions and came back,” said Holtby, who has stopped 102 of 109 shots since replacing Philipp Grubauer in net two periods into Game 2. “It shows our confidence and our experience in a lot of areas.”
The playoff-tested Capitals took punch after punch when they were outshot 16-1 by the Blue Jackets in the third period, including Oliver Bjorkstrand’s deflection goal 2:30 in that tied it. Holtby made saves in quantity and quality, most notably on Columbus No. 1 center Pierre-Luc Dubois on a rebound and again on an attempt to bat the puck out of the air, to get to overtime for the fourth time in five games this series.
That’s when everything changed. Suddenly, two-time Vezina Trophy-winning goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky was besieged, having to stop Alex Ovechkin and John Carlson from point-blank range early in overtime.
“We just came out as a new team,” Carlson said. “We’ve went out and attacked in every game that we’ve won. That was our mindset, and I think we played a great overtime.”
Overtime has been the difference in this series. Artemi Panarin and Matt Calvert scored the winners in Games 1 and 2 for Columbus, Lars Eller in double OT in Game 3 for Washington and then Backstrom in Game 5, deflecting defenseman Dmitry Orlov’s shot past Bobrovsky to send the sellout crowd in Washington into a frenzy.
“I got a tip on it, and it’s usually what happens in the playoffs,” Backstrom said. “Tip goals or rebound goals. That’s the way it is.”
The road team won the first four games of a Stanley Cup playoff series for the fifth time over the past 10 years. Holtby’s 39 saves, including a big one on Bjorkstrand in overtime, made sure the home team won Game 5 for the fifth time.
“One of our best players, our goalie, was our best player again,” Washington forward Brett Connolly said. “He’s come in here and he’s played three amazing games. Kudos to him. He’s been great for us and we obviously need him to keep playing this way if we’re going to be successful.”
Bobrovsky didn’t play poorly other than perhaps a soft goal allowed to Evgeny Kuznetsov early in the second period. After two goals from Matt Calvert and his team’s effort wasn’t enough Saturday, coach John Tortorella is betting on “Bob” to come up big again in Game 6.
“Two good goalies. Good game,” Tortorella said. “We’ll be back here for Game 7.”
It’s now the Capitals’ goal to avoid a Game 7 at home, where they’re 2-5 over the past decade in the Ovechkin era. Coach Barry Trotz, whose team has lost the past two times they’ve played Game 7 at home, shrugged off Tortorella’s assurance of a game in Washington on Wednesday after players insisted they know what to expect from Columbus in Game 6.
“What else is he going to say?” Trotz said. “It’s our job for that not to happen.”
NOTES: Bobrovsky allowed four goals on 29 shots. … Thirteen of the Capitals’ past 24 playoff games have been decided in overtime. … With an assist on T.J. Oshie’s power-play goal, Carlson has eight points through five games. … Ovechkin led all players with seven shots on goal. … Calvert scored twice in a playoff game for the second time in his career. … Blue Jackets C Alexander Wennberg returned after missing Games 2, 3 and 4 following a hit to the head from Tom Wilson. He replaced Sonny Milano in the lineup. … The Capitals made no changes after winning back-to-back games in Columbus, keeping Chandler Stephenson on the second line in the absence of Andre Burakovsky, who’s out for at least the remainder of the series with an upper-body injury.
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Source: Associated Press