Justin Williams is known as Mr. Game 7, but he moved up his timetable a couple of games on Friday night at Verizon Center.
With the Caps and the Toronto Maple Leafs tied at 1-1 early in overtime of Game 5, the next goal was going to put the scorer's team in position to close out the series on Sunday night in Toronto.
Jumping over the boards about a minute into the extra session, Williams made sure that team was his team, the Capitals.
Four seconds after his skates hit the ice, Williams took a fine feed from Evgeny Kuznetsov and fired a shot past Toronto netminder Frederik Andersen to give Washington a 2-1 win in Game 5 and a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series.
Video: TOR@WSH, Gm5: Williams one-times overtime winner
The sequence that led to the winning goal started nearly 200 feet from Toronto's net, with Jay Beagle besting Auston Matthews in a face-off in Washington's end of the ice. Matt Niskanen dumped the puck into the left corner of the Toronto end, and Marcus Johansson was the first man to it.
"I saw Nisky did a pretty good dump," says Kuznetsov. "Jojo goes behind the net and I just get open. The puck was kind of bouncing, and I saw Justin on the ice right between the hash marks. It's kind of a moment where you see your partner eyes to eyes, and you just deliver it to him."
"I wasn't quite sure it went in," says Williams, "but I saw Johansson's arms in the air and he was excited, so I figured something good happened."
Both Kuznetsov and Williams were denied by Andersen on prime opportunities to win the game in the final minute of regulation.
Video: Caps players talk after a 2-1 OT win in Game 5
"After a couple of bad shifts," says Kuznetsov, "we always talk and he always holds the puck and tries to make the play. It's easy to communicate with a guy like Justin. He always talks and talks and he is always positive."
Williams has now scored game-winning goals in the playoffs for four different teams: Philadelphia, Carolina, Los Angeles and Washington. According to Elias Sports Bureau, he is just the second player in NHL history to achieve that distinction. Chicago's Marian Hossa has scored postseason game-winners for Ottawa, Pittsburgh, Detroit and Chicago.
Friday's game-winner in overtime was the second such goal of Williams' career; he also supplied the overtime game-winner for Los Angeles in a 2014 Stanley Cup final game against the New York Rangers.
Tighten Up - After the two teams had combined for 23 goals in the previous three games and a total of 28 goals in the first four games of the series, both goaltenders turned in their best games of the series in Game 5, and both teams played a tight, stifling defensive game. It was the first game of the series in which neither team managed to score three goals and neither team managed to reach 30 shots on net.
"I think the teams are getting to know each other a little bit more," says Johansson. "And I think that's the way it goes. I don't think it's like us to have this high-scoring type of playoff hockey lately. But it doesn't matter if you went 5-4 or 2-1. As long as we get the win, that's all we care about."
Video: Coach Trotz talks after the 2-1 OT/win
Back On The Beam - After scuffling his way through the previous three games and surrendering four or more goals in three straight games for the first time in his playoff career and the first time in more than two years, Caps goaltender Braden Holtby turned in a strong performance in Game 5.
"I was just looking at film of the past few games," says Holtby, "and obviously a lot of the things you have no control over. But one thing I thought I could control was more body language and showing a little calmness throughout my game, to instill in the team. That was my mindset coming into the game."
Holtby made a great save to deny Leo Komarov on a two-on-one just 20 seconds after the opening puck drop. Holtby also walled off Nazem Kadri from the top of the paint midway through second and James van Riemsdyk from a similar spot on a Toronto power play in third.
"Holts was outstanding," says Caps right wing T.J. Oshie. "They did a really good job of getting some traffic and getting some really good tips on him, and somehow he found a way to find the puck and make the save."
Holtby stopped 24 of 25 shots he faced on Friday to earn his 25th career victory in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Video: TOR@WSH, Gm5: Holtby stops Hunwick, Kadri in 2nd
Heavy Hit - Late in the first period, Kadri sent Caps captain Alex Ovechkin flying with a low-bridge hit, an intended hip check that caught Ovechkin in the knee/thigh area. Ovechkin struggled to get to his feet initially, and was eventually helped off the ice and to the room.
Kadri was assessed a two-minute minor for tripping, and Oshie promptly made the Leafs pay, scoring the game's first goal on the ensuing power play.
"Everyone is an important player, but there is only one Ovi," says Oshie. "And when you see him down like that, you get a little nervous and you get a little upset. I thought we responded the right way, with scoring the goal right away."
"I thought he got rid of the puck and I just tried to get a piece of him and he tried to get out of the way," says Kadri of the hit. "It's not like I stuck my knee out or got my arms high or anything like that. It happened pretty quick, and from what I saw I thought it was okay."
Fortunately for the Capitals, Ovechkin returned at the start of the second period and showed he was none the worse for wear, plowing Leafs defenseman Jake Gardiner into the boards on his first shift and nearly cashing in on a prime scoring chance a few minutes later
Video: TOR@WSH, Gm5: Ovechkin leaves with injury, returns
"I'm going to keep my own opinion on the hit," says Caps coach Barry Trotz. "But when you see a star player down, you're always quite concerned. He's the face of this franchise, and you saw - obviously, he came back - how tough he is. It was a big hit."
Special Delivery - The two teams scored a plethora of goals early in series but not in Friday's game. That magnified the importance of special teams, and Caps won that battle decisively.
The Caps went 1-for-3 with the extra man, and they killed off all four Toronto power plays in a span of just 18 minutes and 23 seconds of playing time from the middle of the second period to the middle of the third. The Leafs were held without as much as a shot on goal for the first four minutes of the eight minutes they spent with the extra man on Friday.
Video: TOR@WSH, Gm5: Oshie puts home rebound for PPG
"It was very important," says Oshie. "There is almost a little special teams battle within the game from both teams. Five-on-five goals are hard to come by, and that power play or that penalty kill is what can put you over the edge. I thought tonight our penalty killers did a great job, starting with Holts and then on out, guys sacrificing and getting pucks out.
"When you kill off penalties, it almost has a reverse effect where you get the momentum now from killing that two minutes. And we were able to do that four teams. So we were feeling good going into the third and going into OT after the kills that we made."
The Kid Is All Right - Matthews scored the Leafs' lone goal of the game, marking the third straight contest in which he has scored. According to Elias, Matthews is the first teenager to score a goal in three consecutive games of one playoff year since former Caps forward Dainius Zubrus did so as a member of the Philadelphia Flyers in 1996. Matthews is the first Maple Leafs rookie to score in three straight playoff games since Wendel Clark had a four-game spree in 1986.
Video: Leafs head coach Mike Babcock talks after Game 5
Down On The Farm - The AHL Hershey Bears started their best-of-five, first-round Calder Cup playoff series with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms on Friday night, beginning on the road in Allentown. Hershey skated off with a 1-0 overtime win to take a 1-0 lead in the series and to wrest the home ice advantage away from the Phantoms.
Nathan Walker scored the game's only goal at 7:38 of the extra session, getting help from Tyler Lewington and Stanislav Galiev. Combined with Pheonix Copley's spotless 32-save performance in the Hershey nets, it was enough to lift the Bears to a Game 1 win and an early series lead.
Game 2 is in Allentown on Saturday night.
Down a level, the ECHL South Carolina Stingrays made it a clean sweep for the Washington organization on Friday, downing the Greenville Swamp Rabbits by a 4-2 score in Game 5 of their first-round Kelly Cup playoff series.
Domenic Monardo, Derek Arnold, Rob Flick and John Parker scored for South Carolina, supporting the 22-save efforts of Parker Milner in the South Carolina nets.
Game 6 is on Monday at North Charleston Coliseum.
By The Numbers - John Carlson led the Caps with 23:17 in ice time, five blocked shots and nine shot attempts … Kuznetsov led the Caps with six shots on net … Ovechkin led the Capitals with six hits … Beagle won nine of 13 draws (69%).