Justin Williams' name is synonymous with "playoff hero," and if anyone needed a reminder of why that is, the veteran Washington winger issued a timely reminder to the local population a few minutes after 10 p.m. on Friday night at Verizon Center.
Sixty-four seconds into the fourth overtime contest in five games in this first-round series, Williams punched a shot from the slot through Toronto goalie Frederik Andersen to lift the Capitals to a 2-1 win over the Maple Leafs in Game 5, and a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series.
Video: Williams' OT goal gives Capitals 3-2 series lead
With Toronto's ever dangerous Auston Matthews line out for a face-off in the Washington end of the ice, Caps coach Barry Trotz assigned Jay Beagle - along with Williams' usual linemates Marcus Johansson and Evgeny Kuznetsov - to take the left dot draw against Matthews.
Beagle won the puck cleanly to Matt Niskanen, and the Caps defenseman broke the puck out of Washington ice and lofted a dump-in to the left wing corner while Beagle went to the bench and Williams hopped on.
Johansson got to the puck well ahead of the Leafs, and he fed it to Kuznetsov, who was stationed just above the goal line on the right side. Toronto's skaters were spread out, and none of them was near the middle of the ice, where Kuznetsov softly slid the puck for an onrushing Williams. From between the hash marks, Williams ripped a shot that went through Andersen's five-hole, winning it for Washington.
Video: TOR@WSH, Gm5: Williams one-times overtime winner
From the time of the face-off in the Washington zone until the red light went on behind Andersen, a dozen seconds elapsed.
"It started in our own end," says Williams. "Jay Beagle takes a lot of big face-offs for us. He won that one back, and he came to the bench. I jumped on and my linemates did a great job of hunting the puck. I just hit it as hard as I could, and it went in."
"It's disappointing," says Leafs coach Mike Babcock. "It was one of those plays coming back in our own zone where we had enough people there, but we didn't sort it out right. So you hate to give up the freebie, but the bottom line is we've got to go home and win a game now."
Game 6 is on Sunday night in Toronto.
Video: Leafs head coach Mike Babcock talks after Game 5
In the game's first half minute, the Leafs had their best scoring chance of the first period. Connor Brown came down the right side of the ice for Toronto, with Nate Schmidt as the lone man back and Leo Komarov driving the net on the left, Brown made the pass to Komarov, and Caps goalie Braden Holtby stiffened and made a strong stop to prevent the Leafs from jumping out to an early lead.
The two teams slogged their way through most of the rest of the period and threatened to put the patrons to sleep as they bounced and dribbled the puck here and there. Caps captain Alex Ovechkin ensured they were still awake when he launched Leafs defenseman Jake Gardiner with a clean but hard hit shortly after the 13-minute mark.
About a minute later, the Caps got the game's first power play on a Brian Boyle tripping call. That man advantage produced nothing early, but a couple of good looks late. And just after Boyle exited the box, Andersen made a highlight reel glove save on Kuznetsov from in tight. The puck was so close to crossing the line that the officials took a second look to make sure that Andersen's glove was not behind the line when he made the dazzling snare.
Video: ALL CAPS | April 21
With about two and a half minutes left in the first, Toronto's Nazem Kadri was sent off for tripping Ovechkin. Kadri went low on Ovechkin, making contact with the latter's knee. After being helped up and off the ice, Ovechkin went to the room as the Caps went to the power play, with John Carlson temping in Ovechkin's right dot office.
Washington cashed in on that second opportunity, getting a T.J. Oshie rebound tally after Nicklas Backstrom's initial shot hit iron. Oshie's goal came at 18:15 and staked the Caps to a 1-0 lead, which they were able to take to the room after the first ended.
Video: TOR@WSH, Gm5: Oshie puts home rebound for PPG
Ovechkin returned for the start of the second, showing he was fine by pounding Gardiner into the glass on the first shift of the middle stanza, and by nearly scoring after a Backstrom face-off win a few minutes later.
The Capitals limited the Leafs to just six shots on net and 11 shot attempts in the first frame, but Washington had virtually nothing going on offensively in the second period, managing just four shots on net and a mere 10 attempts.
Part of that paucity of shot tries was due to the Caps taking a trio of minor penalties in the second, and all three of those came after Matthews tied the game for Toronto six minutes into the middle period, putting back a rebound of a William Nylander shot to make it a 1-1 game.
Video: Caps players talk after a 2-1 OT win in Game 5
The Capitals had just two shots on net in the final 15:40 of the second, but they shut down the first two Toronto power plays of the night without permitting as much as a shot on net. The third Leafs power play came when Niskanen was sent off for slashing Kadri in the final minute of the second.
In the final second of the second, Nylander finally managed Toronto's first shot on goal with the extra man.
At 7:36 of the third, Caps winger Tom Wilson was boxed for an offensive-zone hi-sticking minor on Martin Marincin. It was Wilson's fourth minor of the night and the second one that resulted in a Toronto power play.
During the power play, Holtby had to make a brilliant one-on-one stop on James van Riemsdyk while Wilson sweated it out in the box and the game remained even at 1-1.
Wilson got just one more shift thereafter; he was parked on the pine for the second half of the third period.
Kuznetsov and Williams both had excellent chances in the final minute of regulation, but Andersen had the answer both times. That set the stage for Williams' heroics on his very next shift, the one following the intermission.
Video: Coach Trotz talks after the 2-1 OT/win
"It was a huge [face-off] win for Jay," says Trotz. "And then obviously we won a race to the puck, and we bumped it east-west. Kuzy put it up in the slot, right to [Williams], and you talk about big moments, that's one of the reasons that you love Justin Williams right there."