TORONTO(1) at WASHINGTON(2)
WASHINGTON LEADS SERIES 3-2
Sports can bring the greatest highs and also some pretty awful lows. This series has been the definition of edge of your seat entertainment. Even for non-Leafs fans, this has been a series to watch. Every single game has been a 1 goal game. 4/5 have gone to OT. This isn’t what was being sold to us before the playoffs. Before the playoffs this was supposed to be a lesson filled game for the young Leafs. They were supposed to get their lunch served to them, eat their meal and lick their wounds. They have done everything but that. Every period is tense, every shift feels like it could end in a goal and both teams look like equals. Keep in mind the Leafs are the 8th seed to Washington’s 1st.
The game started off with a nervous bit of energy. The Leafs were attacking hard but for every strong shift the Caps had an answer. There weren’t many good looks for the first half. In fact, the tension was subsided for a couple of minutes as a rogue ballon led to a delay of game. Kuznetsov would have a great chance on Andersen but due to Andersen’s amazing puck tracking, the glove was ready. The real story of the period didn’t come till very late when Kadri clipped Ovechkin with a low hip check. The check is clean, this I can tell you, however several factors made it looks worse and worse and worse. OV jumps up as he is hit and also tried to sneak to the right which left his knee to hit Kadri’s hip. Ovechkin would go down and wince in pain and inevitably be helped off the ice. This is, of course, Alexander Ovechkin. He hardly goes down and is plays through everything, so for the last while of this period it seems he might be out. On the ensuing power play, Backstrom shoots the puck which rebounds to an open TJ Oshie who gets it home. Andersen had no chance. The heartbreak of this goal is the fact that OV would inevitably return which almost gives off the thought that OV might have embellished the severity of the hit. This is a worrying because it begs the question, will hockey go the way of soccer, with flopping becoming an all to common norm.
The second period starts with OV seeking redemption by throwing his body around. Almost every shift by Nylander and Matthews line was perfect in the period. Great chances, great plays and eventually they are rewarded with a goal. Nylander takes a shot and the puck bounces to the front of the net. Matthews picks it up, moves it to the side and gets it over Holtby. 1-1 game. The Leafs power play was one of the stand outs of the regular season. They entered well, controlled the pace and scored at will. During this series and this period, the power play looked terrible. Never being able to enter and set up. The period would end in another big talking point. Ovechkin slashes Nazem Kadri’s arm, which sends Kadri to the ground looking like he’s flopping. At leas that’s what it looked like to nearly everyone. Upon further inspection, Matt Niskanen takes a two hand chop to the back of Kadri’s knee. It’s ugly, it’s dangerous and frankly a call from the league is warranted. I have a bigger issue with this than Kadri’s hip check. Sure, I’m biased but that slash was to an unprotected spot and a dangerous part of the body. Inexcusable. The last 30 seconds of the period was the best power play set up by the Leafs in the entirety of the game.
The third period was a goaltending clinic. Holtby and Andersen were ready for everything. Andersen has a glorious save on OV from a point blank spot. This is no easy task by any stretch of the imagination. Holtby would follow this up with a great recovery save on JVR after fumbling the puck. Matthews Line was a threat every shift but Holtby was there. Kuznetsov and Williams had some great chances but again Andersen was sharp. The game was a high paced back and forth but neither goalie budged.
The game would go into overtime. 4th time in 5 games.
It took only 1 minute for the game to be decided. After a defensive zone win by Jay Beagle, Matt Hunwick and Morgan Rielly would have a miscommunication behind the net, which would lead to Justin Williams walking in alone, getting the puck and firing it home. Because he’s Justin Williams and that’s what he does. He lives for big moments and this would be another one of those.
The game ends and it’s a bit of a tough pill to swallow. But let’s put some perspective here. Every game has been a one goal game. That shouldn’t be the case. The series is incredibly close, that shouldn’t be the case. This game is going to game 6 which according to most ‘experts’, shouldn’t have been the case. There’s a lot to be proud of with this young Leafs team. With game 6 being at home, there’s no reason to believe the Leafs can’t even the series up. There has been no blow outs or even poor playing by either team. So, the Leafs will have to dig deep and find that extra gear and let’s hope there will be at least 2 more post games to be written before the season is done.
SCORING BY PERIOD
Washington Goal 18:15 T. Oshie (3) (power play) assisted by N. Backstrom and K. Shattenkirk
Toronto Goal 6:00 A. Matthews (3) assisted by W. Nylander and Z. Hyman
Washington Goal 1:04 J. Williams (3) assisted by E. Kuznetsov and M. Johansson
SHOTS BY PERIOD
MIKE BABCOCK AND NAZEM KADRI POST GAME SCRUM