Barry Trotz wasn’t crazy about the overall game Alex Ovechkin played against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday night but he’s smart enough to know that without him the Capitals probably don’t pull out a wild 3-2 shootout victory.
Ovechkin tied Sergei Fedorov atop the Russian goal-scoring mountain with his 483rd career goal, had his record-breaking goal overturned because of a hotly disputed goalie interference call, then netted the only goal of the shootout to give the Caps their 10th win of the season.
“That’s what Ovi has done here for a long time,” Trotz said. “Big goals at big times and he got it done today.
“And it really wasn’t one of his best games, honestly. But when you need him to step up he does. That’s what stars do and he’s a star, a gold star.”
The win ran the Capitals’ record to 10-3-0 and dropped the hard-luck Leafs to 2-8-4.
The Capitals appeared to tie the score with 2:39 to play when Ovechkin scored what everyone in the building thought was an historic goal – except for the folks in the NHL war room, which happens to be located in Toronto.
Ovechkin backhanded a shot over Leafs goalie James Reimer and celebrated by taking off his glove and raising his index finger into the air, thinking he just became the highest scoring Russian in NHL history with goal No. 484.
But after a lengthy review, the goal was taken away from the Capitals’ 30-year-old captain.
“Last year it would be a good goal but it’s something new for us,” Ovechkin said. “I don’t know who makes the call, the referees or the guys from Toronto, but it is what it is.
“Obviously, it sucks. You think like, OK, you’re number one. But you’re not. So you have to think about the game.”
Williams was seething on the bench when the goal was overturned and he didn’t hide his feelings after the game.
“I knew instantly when I got back to the bench they were going to challenge it,” Williams said. “I thought I went to the net and did everything I could not to touch the goalie and I don’t think I was interfering with him when the shot was taken. But it was disallowed.
“I don’t care. I’ll say it. I don’t like it. I don’t like it at all.”
Neither did Trotz, who has had three of four reviews this season go against his team.
“The way I looked at it, we put the puck to the net,” Trotz said. “Williams was there and in my opinion Reimer gets outside the crease and into Williams. (Williams is) trying to sidestep him. I don’t know if Reimer would have been in any position to save it if he doesn’t do that. It’s very gray.”
That gray turned to a sea of red when, with 0.8 seconds remaining in regulation, Nicklas Backstrom swatted a bouncing puck over an outstretched Reimer to send the crowd into a frenzy and the game into overtime.
“Everyone was excited,” said Backstrom, who was nearly toppled over by Ovechkin’s leap onto his shoulders. “(I’m glad) no one got hurt.”
MORE CAPITALS: Caps win wild one after Backstrom ties it late
Tom Wilson, who had taken a penalty earlier in the third period that led to the Leafs’ game-tying goal, noticed a few seats were empty when Backstrom netted the game-tying goal.
“I saw a couple fans walk out after Ovi's goal was disallowed,” Wilson said, “and they're going to be a little upset they did that, I think.”
The two teams traded chances in the 3-on-3 overtime before it came down to a shootout. After T.J. Oshie rang one of the crossbare, Evgeny Kuznetsov put one off the post and Backstrom was stopped by Reimer’s right pad, Ovechkin outwaited Reimer to go top shelf for the game-winner.
Braden Holtby did the rest, stopping consecutive shootout attempts by P.A. Parenteau, Tyler Bozak, Joffrey Lupul and Nazem Kadri.
“I’m glad because the guys picked me up after the first goal, which I should have had,” Holtby said. “Luck wasn’t going our way and we stuck with it. It pays off when your leader scores at the end of the game like that.”
In the end, it was hard to tell whether Holtby was talking about Backstrom, Ovechkin or both.