Last night’s win for the Washington Capitals was something dreams are made of.
Scoring in overtime to complete a hat trick was something that Right Wing T.J. Oshie only dreamed of until yesterday.
“I haven’t won too many championships in my lifetime,” Oshie said. “Maybe through the youth years. That’s kind of the stuff you dream about when you’re a kid playing in the backyard by yourself is scoring the OT winner and getting a hat trick. It was awesome.”
A flurry of caps fell onto the Verizon Center Ice just before the end of the game last night, with fans taking it on faith that Oshie had just scored the point the Caps needed to finish Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals series between the Caps and the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The celebrating fans did not throw their hats in vain as Oshie’s third goal of the evening was confirmed by video review. Washington came away with a 4-3 win and a 1-0 series lead.
While it was ‘cool’ to get the hat trick and overtime win, Oshie said that there are team goals to focus on. His third individual goal of the night put the Caps one step closer to their team goal of winning the Cup, and the wait for the review was long, but ultimately rewarding.
“The wait seemed pretty long,” said Oshie. “I thought I saw it all the way across; I don’t know if I did or not. I put my hands up and looked at the ref. He marked it a goal, so that kind of reassured me, but it was a close one.”
Oshie’s wraparound goal was upheld after a four-minute video review. He skated left to right across the offensive zone, circled the net and forced the puck barely across the goal line under goalie Matt Murray’s right pad.
“It was kind of a foot race,” Oshie said. “I figured I wasn’t going to be able to get all the way to the net. I think it maybe caught him off-guard.”
Heavily hyped up, the first game of the first playoff series in seven years between the two Metropolitan Division rivals lived up to the hype.
While Oshie may have been the star of the game, Caps Right Wing Jay Beagle managed to get a stick stuck in his face mask.
Game Review: With the Caps committing a couple of early turnovers that resulted in early scoring opportunities for the Penguins. The Caps straightened up and flew right for the rest of the first frame. Washington drew the game’s first power play early in the period, and they spent the entire two minutes threatening to score.
Captain Alex Ovechkin aimed two of shots high and wide. Left Wing Jason Chimera had a good chance to try to sink the puck past Pens goalie Matt Murray at the right post. Although Washington did not connect on that initial power play opportunity, they did jump out to a 1-0 lead shortly thereafter.
As Pittsburgh was attacking on the rush, Caps defenseman John Carlson made a stick-check, poking the puck right to Chimera, who was suddenly looking at a three-on-one opportunity in the opposite direction with Andre Burakovsky on his right and Carlson on his left. Chimera fed Burakovsky, who carried into the Pittsburgh zone down the right wing wall.
Burakovsky returned the puck to Chimera, who shot from the slot. Murray made the save, but Burakovsky was there to bury the rebound for a 1-0 Washington lead at 10:13.
Washington killed off its only penalty of the first and carried that one-goal lead into the second frame.
Midway through the second frame, the Pens changed up their game strategy. Seconds after the Caps narrowly missed converting on a timing play with Evgeny Kuznetsov trying to set up Justin Williams, the Penguins responded with a rush chance of their own. Nick Bonino carried into the Caps’ zone, and Washington defenders Dmitry Orlov and Nate Schmidt collided, giving the Pens an odd-man break down low. Braden Holtby made a pad stop on Bonino, but Ben Lovejoy was there to deposit the rebound to make it a 1-1 game at 10:13.
The Pens wasted no time in taking the lead after having evened the evening score. They worked the puck around the Washington end, and Evgeni Malkin hopped over the boards and into space near the right circle. Chris Kunitz fed Malkin perfectly, and the big center had the time and space he needed to thread a backhander short side and top shelf behind Holtby, doing so a mere 57 seconds after the Lovejoy goal.
However, that Pens lead was short-lived. Pens defenseman Olli Maatta coughed the puck up at the Washington line, and Oshie chipped it past the flat-flooted blueliner and went off on a breakaway. From just inside the right hash mark, Oshie lodged a wrist shot over Murray’s glove hand for the third goal in a span of 90 seconds. The Pens’ lead lasted for 33 seconds.
The puck was following Oshie during the game, which is usually a good sign, said Caps Coach Barry Trotz.
“I thought Osh right from the get-go sort of had good jump in his game. The puck was following him and when the puck is following you, usually good things happen,” said Trotz. “I thought he scored a huge goal for us in the middle frame there when they got the two quick goals. We needed a quick response, and that’s what our team does. There isn’t any panic on our bench, there’s no nervousness or anything like that. We just said, ‘Hey, we’ve got to get this turned around, let’s go.’ I thought that was a huge, huge goal for us.”
Early in the third, Oshie struck again to pull the Caps back up front. In a one-on-three situation in the Pittsburgh end, Ovechkin tried to jam a shot through traffic. The bid was blocked, but it bounced right back to the Caps captain, who quickly fed Oshie in front. He tucked a backhander behind Murray to make it a 3-2 game at 3:23.
Pittsburgh pulled even on a Bonino goal at 8:42. From behind the Washington net, Carl Hagelin fed Bonino in front and the Pens center had more time and space than the Caps would have liked, enough to beat Holtby and make it a 3-3 game.
Two minutes after that tally, the Caps nearly regained the lead on a power play after Burakovsky drew a tripping call on Lovejoy. Matt Niskanen’s point shot hit the left pipe and lay in the paint afterwards. Chimera reached in with his stick and nudged it netward, but it stopped short of the line and a Pens defender swept it aside.
Late in the third, the Caps nearly took the lead again. Nicklas Backstrom swatted the puck out of midair in neutral ice, springing Ovechkin on a breakaway. But the Caps captain couldn’t get enough height on his backhand bid to lift the puck over Murray’s right pad, and the game went to overtime.
Both clubs had shots on net in the extra session, but Washington had by far the better of the chances. Ovechkin just missed burying a rolling puck on yet another sublime feed from Backstrom in the first half minute of the overtime, and Burakovsky sailed a shot from the slot just over the crossbar.
Oshie finished the game and his hat trick at 9:33 of the extra session. Pens defenseman Trevor Daley turned the puck over at the Pittsburgh line, and Oshie carried into the zone and around the back of the net on the right side. He curled around the cage and tucked it just a centimeter or so over the goal line, as the replay later confirmed, showing the slightest sliver of white space between the edge of the disc and the goal line.
“We know he is a big goaltender,” says Oshie of Murray, “and we know he likes to use his body to stop pucks. I’m not even sure it was against him, but I had a wraparound on Pittsburgh during the regular season. I thought I could maybe beat him back to the post, and he did a good job. He actually beat me just by a hair and I think I got a bounce off his blocker maybe and it went back in.”
“He had some time and space wide,” says Murray, “and I had to respect the shot and be aggressive and he just beat me to the back post.”
Oshie’s third goal of the night ended an affair of a game that ‘merely whets the appetite’ for more, according to this game review.
The Caps took Game 1, but either team could have prevailed in this one, said Penguins coach Mike Sullivan.
“It was an even game. Our guys played hard. I thought we carried stretches of momentum for long periods of time,” said Sullivan. “It didn’t go our way. We’ll learn from it, put it behind us and try to get Game 2.”
The Capitals host Game 2 in the best-of-7 series starting at 8 p.m. ET on Saturday. You can watch it on NBC, CBC, and TVA Sports. Radio coverage is also provided by the Capitals app and their website.