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Ovechkin's big night fuels Caps to win over Leafs


Ovechkin's big night fuels Caps to win over Leafs

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.”

RELATED: Ovechkin ties Fedorov as top Russian goal scorer

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. 

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Niskanen takes the blame for all three Lightning goals

Niskanen takes the blame for all three Lightning goals

There was no tougher critic on Matt Niskanen’s Game 5 performance on Saturday than Niskanen himself.

Niskanen and his defensive partner, Dmitry Orlov, were on the ice for all three of the Tampa Bay Lightning’s three goals in the Capitals’ 3-2 loss. That was striking given the Orlov-Niskanen duo is typically Washington’s best defensive pair.

That was not the case on Saturday and Niskanen took full responsibility afterward.

“First three goals are all my fault,” Niskanen said. “I had a tough first 20:30 so I've got to be better next game.”

Pretty much no one played the first goal right.

The goal came just 19 seconds into the game. Orlov turned the puck over in the neutral zone and Evgeny Kuznetsov looked like he could have gotten the puck, but instead played the body of Cedric Paquette. Niskanen stepped up at the blue line, but the Lightning got the puck past him creating a short rush that beat Braden Holtby who was way too far back in the crease.

Yes, Niskanen got caught a bit high, but he was just as at fault as Orlov, Kuznetsov and Holtby.

The second goal happened because Steven Stamkos tripped Orlov to create a turnover and it wasn’t called.

Niskanen got in between Ondrej Palat and the puck, but Palat beat both him and Holtby on the shot. Not sure I would put this one on Niskanen.

The third goal…well, that one was a bad play by Niskanen.

When you go one-on-one with a player, a defenseman cannot allow that player to turn the corner. That’s especially true when that player is defenseman Anton Stralman who is not exactly gifted with blazing speed. This was just a complete misplay.

Regardless of how many goals were strictly on Niskanen, that’s not the point. This was a message not so much to the media but to the team. That message was this: This one’s on me, I will be better next game.

Leaders always take responsibility. Niskanen is taking the blame here and saying he will be better in the hopes the team around him will be better as well.

They will need to be to win Game 6.

“A lot of people counted us out when we were down 0-2 in the first round,” Niskanen said. “Things got hard in the last series where we could have melted and we just kept playing. So that's what we've got to do again, bring our best effort for Game 6 at home, win a game and then we'll go from there.

“But we're focused on bringing our best game of the season for Game 6 and we'll be ready to go.”


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3 reasons the Caps lost Game 5 to the Lightning

3 reasons the Caps lost Game 5 to the Lightning

When the Capitals take to the ice at home on Monday, they will be playing for their playoff lives. They lost their third straight game on Saturday as the Tampa Bay Lightning took Game 5 to take a 3-2 series lead and push the Caps to the brink.

Here is why the Caps fell on the road for the first time in this series.

A rough start

Nineteen seconds was all the time Tampa Bay would need to score in Game 5.

Dmitry Orlov turned the puck over in the neutral zone and Evgeny Kuznetsov chased after it, but instead of getting the puck he inexplicably played the body of Cedric Paquette. Paquette was able to chip it into the offensive zone to Ryan Callahan. Callahan tried to pass to the slot, but it hit off of Orlov right to Paquette who buried it past Braden Holtby who was very deep in the crease.

If Orlov doesn’t cough the puck up in the neutral zone, if Kuznetsov plays the puck instead of the body or if Holtby challenges that shot, that goal doesn’t happen. An ugly play all around for Washington.

A no-call on Steven Stamkos

Later in the first period, Orlov went to corral a puck in the neutral zone, but was pressured by Stamkos, fell to the ice and turned the puck over to Nikita Kucherov. It was very clearly a trip on Stamkos, but there was no call. Palat would score on the play to give Tampa Bay a 2-0 lead.

You can read more about the play here.

A rough night for Dmitry Orlov and Matt Niskanen

Orlov and Niskanen is normally the Caps' best defensive pair, but they had a very long night. They were on the ice for each of the Lightning’s three goals of the game.

Orlov’s turnover led to the first goal, Stamkos’ trip of Orlov led to the second. On the third, Tampa Bay defenseman Anton Stralman was somehow able to drive and turn the corner on Niskanen leading to a scoring opportunity that eventually deflected off the glove of Ryan Callahan and into the net. Stralman is not the speediest of players. The fact he was able to go one-on-one with Niskanen and get in behind him was surprising to see.