There was just one game on Thursday, but the Penguins and Capitals made it a doozy. Here's the players who stood out to us.
There was one game on Thursday, and it was a doozy.
In the opener of their highly anticipated series, the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins didn't disappoint, matching one another goal for goal, until forward T.J. Oshie scored in overtime to finish off a hat trick and give the Capitals a 1-0 series lead.
Here's who stood out to us:
T.J. Oshie, Washington Capitals
It won't become a part of hockey folklore like his shootout heroics in Sochi, but Game 1 might have been the finest moment of his career.
Oshie picked up the hat trick Thursday night, an unexpected feat from a player who'd never scored more than two goals in a playoff season. He helped the Caps reel the game back in with his first goal, which came just 33 seconds after the Pens had scored a pair in less than a minute to take a 2-1 lead. He scored his second of the night less than four minutes into the third period, firing a backhand from the left faceoff circle that slipped through Matt Murray’s five hole to give the Capitals a 3-2 lead.
But his OT winner is the one that just might stand the test of time: a brilliant individual effort that saw him outskate a Pittsburgh defender, barrel around the back of the net and then tuck it just inside the post. The puck barely crossed the line, fitting for a game this close, but that's all it took to secure the 4-3 win.
Braden Holtby, Washington Capitals
The Vezina favorite wasn't called on to be a factor in the opening round against the Flyers, but he made an impact in the opener of round two. Holtby turned aside 42 saves to backstop Washington to the Game 1 victory. He was dialed in from the start, using flawless positioning to make his workload look much easier than it was. The game marked the seventh time he's made 40 or more saves in a playoff game and cemented him atop the active leader board in postseason save percentage and goals-against average.
Tom Wilson, Washington Capitals
Can a villain be a star? Absolutely. Wilson performed his job perfectly in the opener, landing six hits and driving Evgeni Malkin to distraction. His second-period leg whip on Conor Sheary was borderline (to say the least) but it put the Pens on notice. He's comin' for 'em...and they'd better keep their heads up.