WASHINGTON (AP) — Alex Ovechkin did everything he could to keep the Washington Capitals’ season alive.
Ovechkin threw his body around, skated around and through Pittsburgh’s defense and scored a power-play goal to help the Capitals beat the Penguins 3-1 in Game 5 on Saturday night.
Behind a two-point game from Ovechkin and 30 saves by Braden Holtby, Washington cut its deficit to 3-2 and forced Game 6 on Tuesday night in Pittsburgh. T.J. Oshie also scored on the power play and Justin Williams at even strength, cracking Matt Murray after the goaltender looked superhuman for most of the series.
Murray allowed three goals on 19 shots and was victimized on a brutal turnover by defenseman Brian Dumoulin that led to Williams’ goal. Meanwhile, Holtby was stellar and at his best when he stopped three in a less than minute on Evgeni Malkin, Patric Hornqvist and Justin Schultz.
That succession of saves by body, pads and glove late in the second period drew a standing ovation and chants of “Holtby! Holtby!” from the sellout crowd at Verizon Center hoping it wasn’t seeing its final game of the season.
Penguins star Sidney Crosby had an extra gear to his game, too, but Ovechkin was even better with the Capitals on the brink of yet another early playoff exit. From the drop of the puck, Washington’s captain was a force all over the ice.
Ovechkin scored 4:04 in, 8 seconds into the first power play of the night, to give the Capitals the kind of strong start the Penguins anticipated given the situation. After Chris Kunitz scored the Penguins’ first power-play goal of the series 3 minutes later and the momentum shifted, Ovechkin was at the center of the Capitals seizing it back.
It was Ovechkin’s shot off Murray’s right pad that set up Oshie for his rebound goal 4 minutes into the second period. After no power-play goals in the past two games and a 1-for-12 showing in the series, the Capitals’ unit that ranked fifth in the NHL during the regular season woke up just like coach Barry Trotz wanted.
“You’ve got to find the back of the net, be it Ovi or Osh or someone,” Trotz said Saturday morning. “They’ve got to do that. They’ve got to get a little more traffic, as they always do when you’re not getting the goals that you want. You’ve got to go to the hard areas.”
Trotz also wanted better 5-on-5 production up and down his lineup and got that boost from Williams 9:58 into the second period. When Dumoulin threw the puck into the middle of the ice, it landed on the tape of Williams’ stick, and the 33-year-old awoke from his postseason slumber to beat Murray five-hole for his second goal of the series.
The Capitals signed Williams for these situations, and he made up for committing his team-leading seventh penalty of the playoffs. His goal squirted through the legs of Murray, who had stopped 104 of the past 109 shots he faced.
NOTES: Washington had killed off 14 consecutive penalties and 37 of 38 in the playoffs before Kunitz’s goal. … Nate Schmidt returned to the Capitals’ lineup after being a healthy scratch in Game 4. Schmidt replaced Mike Weber. … The Capitals will get defenseman Brooks Orpik back for Game 6 after a three-game suspension for a late hit to the head of Pittsburgh’s Olli Maatta, who remains out.
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