What do you do when your captain gets his knees cut out from under him and you have the best goalie in the world between your pipes? If you’re the Washington Capitals, you go out and beat the Toronto Maple Leafs in a pivotal Game 5 to force them to the brink of elimination. Yeah, that sounds about right. Let’s get into it.
Here's Friday night's Plus/Minus:
Plus: Braden Holtby did what he had to do, which was perform inverted acrobatics and stand on his head so long he got an audition with Cirque du Soleil.
Minus: Alex Ovechkin took an extremely low, nasty hit from Nazem Kadri, and appeared to any and all sane observers to be seriously hurt. But Siberian Apparatus Never Halts or something, and the captain returned like General MacArthur.
And now, this...
Ten more notes on the game:
1. Heading into Friday night, it was a shiny, brand new best-of-three series tied at 2-2. With the ol’ Great Cosmic Reset in place, who would jump out to the first crucial victory of two?
2. Game 5 got off to the slowest start of the series, much like the American cinematic chef d’ouvre, Fast and the Furious 5: Fastest 5 and The 5 Fast Crew or something. Unlike previous games, which featured more shots early than pre-gaming a sunrise service, high-flying Toronto only managed 6 shots in the first period. With the Capitals’ defensive scheme seemingly working, a single orange balloon drifted down from the rafters and delighted the Verizon faithful in a bit of innocent levity similar to what gladiators must experience before they’re forced to rip each other to shreds for the detached bemusement of inbred royals. Was it to be a harbinger of doom, or dope?
3. In fact, the first shot that mattered in this game was a cheap one. With Alex Ovechkin streaking up the boards with the puck, guy-who-asks-to-borrow-your-car-then-returns-it-all-scratched-up Nazem Kadri went extremely, illegally low, catching Ovi with a hip-check well below the knees and sending the Captain tumbling hard to the ice. Ovechkin immediately grabbed for his knees, and lay motionless on the ice for nearly two minutes. He was eventually helped to the locker room by trainers and was unable to put weight on his leg. Seeing the big, mythical, invincible Russian writhing on the ice like that was extremely hard to watch, in a vulnerable childhood hero type of way.
4. With Kadri in the box for just two for tripping - instead of, you know, 25-to-Life for murder - the Capitals served up a luncheon of revenge, ice cold. Bona fide American hero T.J. Oshie caught a beautiful feed from pure and glorious Nicklas Backstrom, hit the patented forehand-backhand move, and potted the vulcanized rubber diadem to make it 1-0 Caps.
5. BUT ALEX OVECHKIN IS MADE FROM NAUGHT BUT UNOBTANIUM AND THE MIGHTIEST FORGED ALLOYS, AND MIRACULOUSLY RETURNED FOR THE SECOND PERIOD. It got off to a more rip-roaring start. The two teams traded shots and penalties galore, before eventually ol’ Bathtub Nostrils himself Auston Matthews knocked home a - stop me if you’ve heard this one this series - loose rebound to knot the game up at one all and do a fair job of shutting up idiots like me.
6. The third period looked a lot like the second, with penalties abounding back and forth. No culprit stood out like a condor in a canary cage more than Tom Wilson. After taking his fourth minor penalty of the contest, he sat with 8:00 PIM and 9:20 TOI. Trotz benched Willy for the remainder of regulation as a means of batting him on the nose with a metaphorical newspaper.
7. Did I say “regulation?” I sure did, because life is a churning maelstrom of deceit and pain, and this series once again went to......overtime.
8. With the entire Greater Washington area’s hearts in their throats, the Capitals decided that tonight’s session would be a gentle one. Evgeny Kuznetsov tracked down a loose puck behind Andersen’s net and flicked it towards the slot, where Justin Williams was lurking like a shark with a scathing remark to make. Mr. Game-....er, Mr. Playoffs ripped the deathblow past Andersen, and the Verizon Center stands erupted like Mt. Vesuvius.
9. Suddenly, the Capitals have the Maple Leafs’ backs against the wall of elimination, and are just one win away from advancing to the conference semi-finals. Hoooooo, boy.
10. Braden Holtby was stellar tonight. As everyone in the Capitals media has been saying all week, Holtby needed to steal a game for the Caps this series. He just did tonight.
Next up is Game 6 in Toronto. Let’s do this damn thing.