WASHINGTON — Justin Williams scored the overtime winner as the Washington Capitals beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 2-1 Friday night in Game 5 to take a 3-2 lead in their first-round series.
The Capitals survived a scare when captain Alex Ovechkin left the game late in the first period with an apparent left leg injury, but he returned in the second. Thanks to Williams’ goal 1:04 into overtime, the Presidents’ Trophy winners go to Toronto for Game 6 on Sunday with a chance to advance to face the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins in the second round.
Braden Holtby made 24 saves for the Capitals, who got a goal from T.J. Oshie on the power play that came from Nazem Kadri’s hit that injured Ovechkin.
Rookie of the year finalist Auston Matthews scored the only goal for the Maple Leafs, and Frederik Andersen made 26 saves before being beaten in overtime.
Williams’ goal was his third of the series. It’s also the 16th of his career in 43 tries in Games 5-7 as his team improved to 26-18 in those situations.
Four of the first five games of the series have been decided in overtime. What looked lopsided on paper going in has been as tight as anyone could have possibly imagined with the teams separated by one goal in the series (16-15 Capitals) and tied in shots (175 apiece).
As if this tense series didn’t provide enough drama, the Ovechkin injury silenced Verizon Center 17:32 in. Ovechkin clutched his left knee, was down on the ice for several minutes and didn’t put weight on his left leg as he was helped off.
Nazem Kadri was given a two-minute minor penalty for tripping on the borderline low-bridge hit, and Oshie scored on a rebound on the ensuing power play 43 seconds later to put Washington up 1-0. Oshie has points in each game this series.
The crowd roared when Ovechkin stepped onto the ice for the start of the second period, and the 31-year-old captain crushed Maple Leafs defenseman Jake Gardiner into the boards on his first shift back. Ovechkin took six shifts and played five minutes in the second in large part because of penalties.
The sense of relief that filled Verizon Center with Ovechkin’s return only lasted until the 6-minute mark when Matthews put back a rebound for his third goal of the series to tie the score at 1. Toronto’s power play failed to cash in on several chances later that period and into the third.
Williams had a chance to win it late in regulation but couldn’t get a shot on net.
NOTES: Capitals D Karl Alzner missed his third consecutive game with an undisclosed upper-body injury. Alzner took part in the morning skate Friday and skated with several other teammates Thursday. Tight-lipped about the timeline, coach Barry Trotz said Alzner is day to day. … Washington recalled C Chandler Stephenson but he was a healthy scratch as the team went with the same lineup from Game 4.
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