The picture isn’t perfect for the Washington Capitals after Wednesday’s Game 4, but it sure is prettier than it was coming in.
The Presidents’ Trophy team flexed their muscles during significant stretches, ultimately beating the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-4. With that, the series moves back to the Verizon Center tied 2-2.
Considering the fact that the Capitals entered the first intermission with a 4-1 lead, this contest sure was a lot more dramatic than a stunned Toronto crowd might have wondered. Tom Wilson seemed to enjoy some glory in a homecoming as a road villain. Then again, with how odd this series has been … maybe some had some hope.
Despite some dull moments from the Leafs in the second period, a James van Riemsdyk goal gave Toronto some life, and opening the third with almost two minutes of 5-on-3 time made things even more interesting.
The Capitals maintained a 4-2 lead for some time, then saw what would have likely been a knockout blow nullified by a shaky goalie interference call. The pendulum then swung quite a bit:
- Auston Matthews made that official decision look potentially pivotal with a 4-3 goal.
- T.J. Oshie quickly regained the edge with a 5-3 tally that would ultimately end up being the game-winner.
- Tyler Bozak added some late drama by making it 5-4 with a little less than 30 seconds remaining in regulation.
Toronto couldn’t make that final push, so the Capitals were rewarded for their hard work with a big win.
Now, again, there are some concerns for a team that came into the postseason as heavy favorites.
Can they properly protect a lead? On that note, are they guilty of sitting on leads, whether it be by taking the foot off the pedal, being too cute with ice time for players like Alex Ovechkin or something else? Is Kevin Shattenkirk in the doghouse after only receiving about 13 minutes of ice time, the fewest of any Capitals defenseman?
Really, though, should we be worried about Braden Holtby? It was a very difficult night for the usually rock-solid winning machine.
So, yes, there are questions. And, if you told us a week ago that this series would be tied 2-2, many eyebrows would raise.
Yet, ultimately, the Capitals evened things out and merely need to keep chugging along. Maybe the dominance hasn’t been there as consistently as the juggernaut team expected, but they’re where they need to be right now.
And, hey, sometimes ugly is just how you need to win in the playoffs.