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Capitals beat Maple Leafs 5-4, tie series at 2 games apiece

Written by The Associated Press | Apr 20, 2017 1:55 AM
ovechkin_alex_capitals_playoffs17.jpg

Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin (8) faces Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Jake Gardiner (51) during second period of Game 2 in an NHL Stanley Cup hockey first round playoff series in Washington, Saturday, April 15, 2017. (AP Photo/Molly Riley)

(Washington) -- Washington coach Barry Trotz tried Tom Wilson on his third line, and it paid off in a big way.

Wilson scored twice and saved a goal from his own net, and the Capitals beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-4 on Wednesday night to tie their first-round playoff series at two games apiece.

"I think it's that time of year, there's been some fabulous heroes, not always the ones that you think are going to be there," Trotz said. "Obviously the big names are always there, but I just think he played the right way today.

"He's a growing young player who is physically very strong and he's grown to be a good penalty killer and his game continues to grow. Real happy for him."

T.J. Oshie also had two goals and Alex Ovechkin scored his third goal of the playoffs as the top-seeded Capitals regained momentum with the series shifting back to Washington for Game 5 on Friday night. Braden Holtby made 30 saves.

"I think we got our heads on straight right now on how we want to play and unfortunately it's taken us a couple games to get there," Oshie said. "So we want to improve on tonight and get even better, but I think tonight was a right step breathing-wise and it could be the same next game."

Wilson also scored the overtime winner in Game 1. The Toronto native had seven goals in 82 games this season.

Wilson's play has earned the confidence of Trotz, who put the winger on Washington's third line alongside Andre Burakovsky and Lars Eller.

"I thought all our guys stepped up tonight," Wilson said. "There was good scoring from kind of every line. You know what, it's fun to win in Toronto for sure."

Zach Hyman, James van Riemsdyk, Auston Matthews and Tyler Bozak scored for Toronto, which was coming off a 4-3 overtime win on Monday night. Frederik Andersen stopped 22 shots.

The Maple Leafs rallied after the Capitals scored four times in the first for a 4-1 lead. Bozak, who had the winning goal in Game 3, got Toronto within one with 26 seconds left, but Washington held on from there.

"I thought today was the first time that maybe we weren't scared enough of them and it looked like it because our competition level wasn't good enough," Toronto coach Mike Babcock said.

The tight finish came after a dominant start for the Capitals.

Oshie got Washington on the board when he capitalized on a Nate Schmidt point shot sent purposefully wide of the net. Ovechkin then was left wide open for a one-time drive on a power play, making it 2-0 at 4:34 of the first.

It was similar to Game 3 when Toronto also went down 2-0 in the first five minutes, but the club was unable to recover this time around. The Capitals added two more goals in the first in a span of less than three minutes -- both by Wilson.

"We've got to be more prepared," Matthews said. "We still have to be prepared to come out on time."

Wilson first pulled back a Morgan Rielly shot from the goal line after it snuck through the pads of Holtby. He then raced the other way and deflected Eller's harmless shot from the sideboards past Andersen.

On his next shift, Wilson barreled over Rielly near the Washington blue line and then finished off a 2-on-1 sequence with Burakovsky for a 4-1 lead at 16:04.

"You take them as they come, just trying to work hard," Wilson said. "We got scored on early, so we needed to bounce back. So, got a couple to go there."

Van Riemsdyk scored early in the second on a power play, but Toronto wasted nearly two full minutes of a 5-on-3 advantage.

Washington appeared to go up 5-2 with just under 12 minutes to go, but the goal by Schmidt was waved off on goalie interference. The Caps challenged the play, which saw Nicklas Backstrom get tangled up with Andersen, but the initial call was confirmed.

Matthews scored his second of the series at 12 minutes, but Oshie restored Washington's two-goal lead 59 seconds later.

"The 5-on-3, huge kill for us," Ovechkin said. "We knew after that, we can do our business."

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