WASHINGTON, D.C.—Justin Williams was at it again.
Williams scored at 1:04 of overtime — his second winner in extra time this series — as the Washington Capitals beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 2-1 to take a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven Stanley Cup playoff series.
Game 6 is Sunday at the Air Canada Centre.
T.J. Oshie opened the scoring in the first period for the Capitals, while Auston Matthews had the Leafs’ goal in the second.
With Friday’s overtime session, four of the five games in the series have gone beyond sixty minutes. Even Game 4, the only one not to go to overtime, was still decided by one goal.
The last time the Leafs went to four overtimes in a playoff round was the 1951 Stanley Cup final vs. Montreal, the year Bill Barilko scored the Cup winner.
The game was the lowest scoring of the series as both goalies re-asserted themselves with nights that more resembled their performances during the regular season. Neither goalie inspired much confidence in what had been a high scoring series with between seven and nine goals a night.
Frederik Andersen’s best save Friday came in the first period, a glove save on Oshie on the goal line. Oshie celebrated as if he had scored
Tied at two games apiece going into Game 5, the stakes were higher, with each play more important than the last, the spotlight a little brighter.
“Best time of your life,” Leafs coach Mike Babcock said before the game. “Dig in.”
The Leafs wanted to seize the moment. They went into Game 5 believing just being in the playoffs wasn’t enough. They were hungry for more.
“It’s important to stay in the moment just because we’re a young team in a rebuild,” Matthews said. “If we make the playoffs one year, it doesn’t mean we’re going to make the playoffs the next year.”
The first round is speeding toward its conclusion. Some teams — Chicago, Columbus, Calgary — are gone already.
“It’s an extra motivator, you don’t want to be one of those teams yet,” Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen said. “You want to keep playing, it’s a lot of fun, and you definitely want to win and keep playing. You earn your way to keep playing and you do that by winning.
The Capitals grabbed a 1-0 lead in the first period, but temporarily lost star and captain Alex Ovechkin.
Nazem Kadri was called for tripping Ovechkin — it was more like a low hip check — but Ovechkin fell to the ice in pain, holding his right knee, and a scrum ensued. By the time Kadri was finally put in the box, Ovechkin was being helped off the ice and did not play the rest of the period. Oshie’s goal on the power play opened the scoring.
Ovechkin returned to start the second, but the Leafs came back to tie. Ovechkin was on for the first shift, to rousing applause from the Verizon Centre crowd. The cheers got louder when Ovechkin hammered Jake Gardiner on the boards.
Matthews got the period’s only goal, the result of hard forechecking and digging in front of Braden Holtby.
The Leafs had two power plays, neither effective, both marred by poor passing and decision-making.
NOTES: C Eric Fehr (broken finger) is skating with the Leafs but not available to play yet, said coach Mike Babcock . . . D Karl Alzner (upper body) skated Friday morning and was “getting close” to returning, said Capitals coach Barry Trotz . . . The Capitals called up F Chandler Stephenson from the Hershey Bears but he did not play.