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Capitals vs. Maple Leafs Recap: Caps Win 5-4, Even Series Against Leafs

Tom Wilson scored twice to help send the series back to D.C. all tied up.

Washington Capitals v Toronto Maple Leafs - Game Four Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images

On a night in which much of the D.C. area was anxiously awaiting the third “trifecta” of three local teams winning on one night in just under two years, the Washington Capitals did their part. A roller coaster of a 5-4 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre tied the teams’ first-round series at two games apiece. Game 5 is at Verizon Center on Friday night.

Wednesday night's Plus/Minus:

  • Plus: Through four games, Tom Wilson has three goals and is tied for the team lead with Alex Ovechkin. Just like everyone expected.
  • Minus: It ended up having virtually no effect on the outcome, but Brooks Orpik’s ill-advised slashing penalty in the dying seconds of the second period gave the Leafs a two-man advantage that threatened to bring them back within shouting distance.

And this, too...

My ten notes and thoughts:

  • That was closer than it needed to be. Toronto out-shot the Caps 19-3 in the third period, a frame in which Washington seemed to flatline after dominating possession for the first two periods. While the result is what people will remember most from tonight, it stands to reason that that kind of performance in any period will not serve the Capitals well over the final two or three games of the series.
  • How did that third period start? The Leafs had a two-man advantage for 1:54, after a dubious delay of game on call against Lars Eller at 19:53 of the second, then a slashing call against Brooks Orpik on the ensuing faceoff. Braden Holtby saved all five shots he saw during that penalty kill, but that energetic Toronto power play helped to set the tone for the third.
  • On Orpik... He had a Corsi of +1 and an assist, but committed the aforementioned penalty that could have turned disastrous and was a minus-1, on the ice for two third-period Maple Leaf goals.
  • On Wilson... his promotion to the third line proved to be a significant lift for the Toronto native. Aside from his pair of all-important goals in the first, his defensive play to keep the game from being tied was a turning point.
  • After all the hand-wringing over Alex Ovechkin’s ice time, he scored his third goal of the series to make it 2-0 at 4:34 had a Corsi of +6. Thanks in large part to him, the top line combined for three goals and two assists.
  • Holtby was instrumental, stopping 30 of 34 shots and standing tall during that 5-on-3 in the third.
  • T.J. Oshie broke through at a great time, providing that hot start for the Caps with the game’s first goal less than three minutes in, and pitching in for the insurance tally - the eventual game-winning goal - less than a minute after Auston Matthews cut the Washington advantage to 4-3.
  • It’s damn near impossible to overrate Nicklas Backstrom and what he brings to the ice. His 45th career assist in the playoffs now puts him second all-time in Capitals history ahead of Scott Stevens and just two behind Dale Hunter.
  • Nate Schmidt scored his first career playoff goal tonight, but it won’t go down in the record books as such because of the goaltender interference rule.
  • And finally, that trifecta I talked about earlier? As of this writing, the Nationals are ahead of Atlanta 14-4 in the bottom of the ninth with nobody out. Unless some weird %$#! happens, we’re in line for another one.