Capitals finally get playoff bounce as Lars Eller saves their season

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Nobody would blame you if expected the worst for the Washington Capitals as Game 3 against the Columbus Blue Jackets went to overtime on Tuesday, the third time in as many games the teams needed sudden death to decide a winner.

After all, this is the Capitals. This is the playoffs. This is a team that over the past two games seemed to invent new ways to crush the spirit of both themselves and their fans.

It seemed inevitable that something, somehow, was going to go wrong in overtime, especially as Blue Jackets forward Artemi Panarin turned into a one-man highlight reel every time he touched the ice. The Capitals had no answer for him, and he seemed destined to destroy the Capitals’ hopes and dreams on Tuesday.

Then, halfway through the second overtime period, something unexpected happened.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

 A bounce — several of them, actually — went the Capitals’ way in a playoff game to help them pick up a 3-2 double overtime win.

After Blue Jackets goalie Sergei Bobrovsky was unable to cleanly snag an innocent looking shot off the rush, Zach Werenski attempted to clear the rebound away from the front of the net only to have it bounce directly to Capitals forward Lars Eller.

Eller then simultaneously swatted it back off of Werenski’s leg, where it then bounced off of Eller’s skate and into the wide open net to give the Capitals their first win of the series.

You can see the entire sequence in the video above.

With that, we now have a series.

Even with everything that has happened through the first three games to put the Capitals in the 2-1 deficit they are facing they should be feeling pretty good about themselves. They did enough to build a two-goal lead in each of the two games they lost before stupid mistakes helped things unravel.

Braden Holtby, their No. 1 goalie, is back in net and has looked pretty good since replacing Phillipp Grubauer, stopping 40 of the 43 shots he has faced (that is a .930 save percentage) over the past six periods of hockey.

Do they have enough to come back and win three of the next four games? That remains to be seen. But the fact they were able to get one on Tuesday night and avoid falling into what would have likely been an insurmountable 3-0 hole is a huge start.

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Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.