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Capitals vs. Maple Leafs: Tom Wilson the unexpected hero in Game 1 overtime thriller

Capitals vs. Maple Leafs: Tom Wilson the unexpected hero in Game 1 overtime thriller

Final score: Washington Capitals 3, Toronto Maple Leafs 2

How it happened: It was a nightmare start for Washington as a sloppy Caps team gave up two goals in the first 10 minutes of the game.

Toronto took two penalties soon after to give the Caps a two-man advantage and Justin Williams put Washington on the board just as the first penalty expired to salvage something from a horrendous opening frame. Despite the bad start and getting outshot to start the second period 10-3, Williams made it a tie game as he charged in on net and knocked in the loose puck underneath the Frederik Andersen's pads.

The Caps asserted control in the third period, but both teams were held off the scoreboard leading to overtime.

Tom Wilson ended the game in the first overtime with a howitzer of a shot to the shortside.

What it means: Washington takes the 1-0 series lead with the win cementing their control over what already looked like a lopsided series.

Goals

Maple Leafs goal: Mitch Marner from Tyler Bozak and James van Riemsdyk at 1:35 in the 1st period. Toronto broke out of their zone on a three-on-two. Kevin Shattenkirk pinched too far over in pursuit of the puck leaving van Riemsdyk open. Braden Holtby made the initial save, but the put back from van Riemsdyk bounced off the net and into the slot where a diving Marner was able to shoot it in. Caps 0, Maple Leafs 1

Maple Leafs goal: Jake Gardiner at 9:44 in the 1st period. Shattenkirk tried to clear the puck out of the defensive zone along the boards, but it took a bad bounce and stayed in where Gradiner picked it up. He held the puck long enough for Nazem Kadri to set up a screen then fired a shot past Holtby. It was initially waived off by the referee for goalie interference, but after a coach’s challenge by Mike Babcock revealed Kadri did not make contact with Holtby, the call was overturned. Caps 0, Maple Leafs 2

Caps goal: Justin Williams (power play) from Kevin Shattenkirk and T.J. Oshie at 12:24 in the 1st period. Just as a two-man advantage for Washington was expiring, Backstrom fed Shattenkirk from behind the net to the top of the faceoff dot. Shattenkirk broke his stick on the shot attempt sending the puck to Oshie. He fed Williams right on the doorstep and he tipped it in. Caps 1, Maple Leafs 2

Caps goal: Justin Williams from Matt Niskanen and Evgeny Kuznetsov. At 16:00 in the 2nd period. Niskanen fired an innocent-looking shot from the high slot that Andersen saved, but he lost sight of the puck. Williams charged in on Andersen and the goalie instinctively stood, revealing the puck at his pads. Williams dug it under Andersen to tie the game at 2. Caps 2, Maple Leafs 2

Caps goal: Tom Wilson at 5:15 in the first overtime. Caps 3, Maple Leafs 2

3 Caps stars

1. Justin Williams: The Caps looked asleep in the first period, but there was one player who was doing everything he could to wake them up. Williams was great from start to finish and single-handedly brought the Caps back into this game. His first goal salvaged an otherwise horrendous first period and he tied the game in the second. This was the 34th postseason multi-goal game of his career.

2. Tom Wilson: Wilson was the overtime hero with a beautiful shot to defeat his hometown team. This is one game he will never forget.

3. Braden Holtby: It's a good thing Holtby was on his game early or this one could have gotten ugly very quickly. Toronto fired 15 shots on Holtby in the first period and 28 through the first two. He was tested early and often, but was up to the task, keeping the Caps in the game.

Look ahead: Game 2 will take place in Washington on Saturday. Then the series heads to Toronto for Games 3 and 4.

Did you watch the game? Tell us what you think!

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Can Braden Holtby quiet goalie controversy, rebound from tough start?

Can Braden Holtby quiet goalie controversy, rebound from tough start?

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Braden Holtby has been here before. Every goalie in the NHL has good stretches and bad. Really, one thing that defines a goalie is how they overcome those bad stretches. Holtby had perhaps the greatest rebound a goalie could ever have, going from losing his starting job to Philipp Grubauer in 2018 to taking back the crease in the playoffs and leading the team to a Stanley Cup.

But could this year be different?

A poor start is one thing, but there are also other external factors that may be contributing.

In five games this season, Holtby has a .846 save percentage and 4.27 GAA. His save percentage is the worst among all goalies with at least four starts and his GAA is the second-worst behind only Devan Dubnyk’ s 4.56. It’s a small sample size, but those are horrific numbers made worse by Monday’s performance in which he allowed three goals on three shots before being pulled.

“It was a tough game for Braden and I think he'll be the first one to admit it,” Todd Reirden said after practice on Tuesday. “That's a game I think he'd like to do some things different. I think our team could have played closer to our identity than we did to give him a better chance to have success. But the good thing is he's accountable to it, he knows. He's accountable to himself, he's accountable to his teammates, he's accountable to everybody that he can be better than that and when he gets that chance he will.”

But will he?

Just 16 months removed from overcoming the worst stretch of his career and hoisting the Stanley Cup and still only 30 years old, it seems premature to declare Holtby as finished or to assume he won’t be able to dig himself out of this hole.

“Usually it's just getting back to the basics of things,” Holtby said when asked about overcoming a slump. “A lot of times when things are going your way, you're usually pushing forward too fast and make things [instead] of just letting them come to you. It's just getting back to the basics of playing, trusting your instincts and not letting it affect you. Just go out and play.”

“In times like these - good or bad - it's usually not as good as you think or not as bad as you think,” he added. “You just have to get yourself back to that level mentally where you can break things down and see just those little areas that might be just off a bit that could be the difference.”

But there are two external factors that could be putting pressure on Holtby mentally.

First, this year is the final year of Holtby’s contract. Playing in a contract year can be tough and Holtby certainly would not be the first player to succumb to the pressure that comes with an uncertain future. The second is that his replacement, Ilya Samsonov is now backing him up and doing a pretty darn good job with it.

In three appearances this season, Samsonov, 22, has a .944 save percentage and 1.43 GAA. He was Washington’s first-round draft pick in 2015 and the fact that his first season in the NHL happens to be the last of Holtby’s contract is impossible not to notice.

Holtby was asked if his contract or Samsonov’s presence was affecting him mentally.

“I don’t know, I just think it's wanting to win, wanting to get a good start, maybe getting a little ahead of myself,” he said. “In ways, trying to push too hard. Just take a deep breath and just go out and play. I mean, it's seven games in. A couple months, you won't even remember this conversation. You just stick to the process and keep doing what you think you can do to help the team win.”

“When you break it down like that, who his backup is, yes it is a different scenario,” Reirden said. “The one scenario that isn't different is that I still have plenty of confidence in him. Lots of confidence in him. He's been through this before. We saw that in the Stanley Cup year and then he ends up taking over and helping us win the Stanley Cup and be a huge part of it.”

While Reirden still professes his confidence in Holtby, the recent struggles as well as Samsonov’s strong play have at least given him pause.

Following Monday’s loss, Reirden said of Samsonov, “He's doing what he's supposed to be doing, and that's to make it like a decision every night of who's going to be considered to play that game.”

Reirden also would not commit to naming a starter for Wednesday’s game against a star-studded Toronto Maple Leafs team, but he seemed to be leaning towards Samsonov to give Holtby time to reset. At least that’s what it sounded like.

“Much like every player, goalies will go through situations like this and I'm sure that's how [Holtby] feels about the start to the year. I'm confident that we've got a few practices here, he gets to reset and work with [goalie coach] Scott Murray and get things settled in and then he's ready to go again.”

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How to Watch: Maple Leafs at Capitals: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream

How to Watch: Maple Leafs at Capitals: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream

Sitting firmly at third place in their respective divisions, the Capitals and Maple Leafs are both eager to grab another win for themselves in this classic Atlantic vs Metropolitan division matchup. 

Here is everything you need to know about the Wednesday night game, which takes place at 7:00 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Washington.

CAPITALS vs. MAPLE LEAFS HOW TO WATCH

What: Toronto Maple Leafs at Washington Capitals, Game 8 of the 2019-20 NHL Regular Season

Where: Capital One Arena, Washington, D.C.

When: 7:00 p.m. ET

TV Channel: The Capitals vs Maple Leafs game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (NBC Sports Washington Channel Finder)

Live Stream: You can live stream Capitals vs Maple Leafs on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and on the NBC Sports App.

Radio: Caps 24/7 Radio, 106.7 The Fan FM

CAPITALS VS MAPLE LEAFS TV SCHEDULE

6:00 PM: Caps Faceoff Live

6:30 PM: Caps Pregame Live

7:00 PM: Capitals vs Maple Leafs

9:30 PM: Caps Postgame Live

10:00 PM: D.C. Sports Live

10:30 PM: Caps Overtime Live

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