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T.J. Oshie: 'This is what the playoffs are all about'

T.J. Oshie: 'This is what the playoffs are all about'

Well, that was fun, wasn’t it?

If you like hockey at breakneck speed with offensive chances galore (80 shots combined), the Capitals and Penguins provided that.

If you like hard-nosed hockey along the boards and in front of the net (72 combined hits), the Caps and Pens provided that.

If you like drama, well, there was plenty of that, too, with T.J. Oshie making Penguins rookie goaltender Matt Murray feel like a human turnstile with a wraparound goal that completed his first playoff hat trick and gave him his first-ever playoff win in a game he scores a goal.

“I’m just excited we won,” Oshie said after the Caps’ wildly entertaining 4-3 win. “It’s cool to get the hat trick and score the overtime winner, but we have team goals right now, not individual ones.”

All eight teams that won Game 1 in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs went on to win their series and the Capitals are hoping to follow suit in Round 2.

For Oshie, Thursday began with a Penguins fan placing a “Let’s Go Pens” poster in front of his door and his daughter, Lyla, giving it a healthy kick.

“I actually found that on my doorstep when I went to the rink this morning, so my wife got a little clever with it when I wasn’t around,” Oshie said of her Instagram video of Lyla’s strong right kick.

Oshie continued that sentiment well into the night, scoring a game-tying, a go-ahead and a game-winning goal all in the same evening.

Several players were asked if this is what they expected in what could easily be the most entertaining series of the 2016 playoffs.

“I don’t see why it would go any different,” said Caps goalie Braden Holtby, who stopped 42 of 45 shots to improve to 5-2 in the post-season. “They’ve had success this last little stretch, playing that way, a more speed game and we’re comfortable with that.

“We’re focused on getting the puck below their goal line and going to work and grinding them out. Hopefully in a long series it’ll work in our favor.”

Alex Ovechkin failed to score in the contest but he was a force again, recording four shots, including a breakaway backhander, and a team-high seven hits.

“It’s always fun when we win those games because to be honest with you, they’re hard games,” Ovechkin said. “You have to be fresh all the time. You have to take a little bit shorter shifts. But we did all the time.”

The only player who had little involvement in the game was Caps defenseman Dmitry Orlov, who allowed Nick Bonino to get past him for a goal by Ben Lovejoy 10:40 into the second period and saw just one shift after that.

The two teams will practice at Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Arlington on Friday before going back at it in Game 2 on Saturday night.

Oshie can’t wait.

“Oh yeah,” he said. “The momentum shifts, the big hits, the goals, overtime, the big saves. This is what the playoffs are all about.”

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3 reasons the Caps beat the Sabres

3 reasons the Caps beat the Sabres

The Caps could not shake Buffalo for two periods, but a dominant finish on Saturday helped them pull away for a 5-1 win. Here's how they finally put away the Sabres.

A quick start

Strong starts go a long way towards helping a team in the middle of a slump. It's a confidence boost for a group in desperate need of one and the Caps got that boost on Saturday from Evgeny Kuznetsov. Kuznetsov used his wheels to zip in behind the defense and score just 50 seconds into the game. Washington led 1-0 at the end of the first, just the second time in 19 games they have held a lead after the opening 20 minutes.


Andre Burakovsky snapping a second period slump

It looked in the second period like the Caps were caught trying to protect the lead again, but Andre Burakovsky woke the team back up with his incredible highlight end-to-end goal. It really looked like Buffalo was going to tie the game at one, but instead, Burakovsky extended the lead to two. Going end to end the way he did shows a player who is starting to play with some confidence, something Burakovsky has lacked for much of the season.

Ovechkin's two-goal third period

Buffalo would not go away. Sam Reinhart got the Sabres on the board just 14 seconds into the third period and suddenly the Caps found themselves in a one-goal game again. But Ovechkin ended any hopes for the comeback as he struck in the top corner of the net on the power play from the office. He would later add a deflection goal to extend the lead to 5-1, giving a scuffling Washington team the dominant win they so sorely needed.

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3 stars of the game: Caps erupt in 3rd for dominant win over Sabres

3 stars of the game: Caps erupt in 3rd for dominant win over Sabres

The Capitals needed a win in the worst way and they got one, dispatching the Buffalo Sabres in dominating fashion with a 5-1 win.

Washington was locked in a tight game leading 2-0 heading into the third period when Sam Reinhart scored just 14 seconds into the period to pull Buffalo to within one. The Caps then slammed the door shut, scoring three unanswered goals to put away the Sabres.

Here are the three stars of the game.

1. Alex Ovechkin: This was career game No. 983 for Ovechkin, tying him for the franchise record for most games played with Calle Johansson. Ovechkin very fittingly celebrated the occasion with two goals. The first came on a power play goal from the office, but there was no need for a one-timer on this one. The Sabres gave him all the time he needed to aim up the shot and wrist it into the top corner.

He added a second goal late off a deflection from a John Carlson shot.

2. Evgeny Kuznetsov: To say the Caps have struggled at the start of games would be an understatement. In the last 18 games, Washington has held the lead after the first period only once. Kuznetsov made sure this game started off on the right foot as he scored just 50 seconds into the game. He turned on the jets in the neutral zone to turn the edge on Jason Pominville then easily skated around a weak, ill-advised challenge from Robin Lehner before flinging the puck into the yawning net.

It was the fastest goal to start a game by the Caps this season. It was just the start of what would be a four-point night for the Caps' center as he added three assists.

3. Andre Burakovsky: Burakovsky had the highlight of the game with his end-to-end goal in the second period to put Washington up 2-0. He looked like he was shot out of a cannon as he launched himself from the defensive zone, streaked down the center of the ice and in on net to slide the puck through the Lehner's five-hole.

Look how Burakovsky was able to slice through the Sabres' defense. Buffalo had him surrounded, but his speed caught the Sabres off-guard and they were not able to recover in time to actually slow him down.