The Toronto Maple Leafs entered Game 4 on a high, having taken a 2-1 series lead on Tyler Bozak’s heroic OT-winner just two nights earlier.
Any of that momentum dissipated quickly as the Washington Capitals scored four goals in the first period, two via Tom Wilson, and another in the third to defeat the Maple Leafs 5-4.
"We weren't very good," Leafs coach Mike Babcock said. "We weren't ready to play."
Nicklas Backstrom found T.J. Oshie in front, staring at a yawning net, resulting in a 1-0 lead for Washington just 2:58 in. Less than two minutes later, Alex Ovechkin released his patented one-timer from the circle, firing the puck past Frederik Andersen to double the Caps' lead.
Toronto made things interesting every now and then, but could never build any sustained pressure. Zach Hyman cut Washington’s lead to 2-1 in the first period, and James van Riemsdyk pulled the Leafs to within a pair of goals in the middle frame. They’d make it 4-3 with eight minutes to go in the third, thanks to Auston Matthews’s second career playoff goal, a juicy rebound the rookie quickly pounced and cashed in on.
But just 59 seconds later, Oshie picked up a loose puck, darted in on Andersen and beat him with a wrister, restoring the two-goal lead for the Caps. Bozak made it 5-4 with 27 seconds to go, but that wound up being Toronto’s last stand.
It was the first regulation win for either team in the series. The Capitals head back home having achieved equilibrium and with a chance to move ahead in what’s now a best-of-three.
Here’s a look at the rest of the postseason action from Wednesday night:
Senators 1, Bruins 0 | OTT leads 3–1
If you were looking for a high-scoring game, this... wasn’t it.
Bobby Ryan scored the lone goal of the contest 5:49 into the third period, receiving a gorgeous slap-pass by Erik Karlsson and depositing the puck into the net. It was Ryan’s third goal of the series. Craig Anderson picked up the shutout, making 22 saves.
Boston’s in a world of trouble, down 3-1, and getting back into the series and pulling off a win in what figures to be a rambunctious Ottawa home rink will be a heck of a challenge.
Wild 2, Blues 0 | STL leads 3-1
In a do-or-die Game 4, the Wild did.
Minnesota got its first lead of the series when Charlie Coyle fired a shot from the boards past a scrambling Jake Allen in the first period. Martin Hanzal's snipe in the second gave the Wild some insurance. Devan Dubnyk stopped 28 shots to quiet the St. Louis offense.
The victory sends the series back to St. Paul, where Minnesota will try to extend its playoff life one more time in Game 5 on Saturday.
Ducks 3, Flames 1 | ANA wins 4-0
The Ducks are bound for the second round after completing a sweep of the Flames.
They chased Calgary starter Brian Elliott after just two shots, then immediately went to work on backup Chad Johnson, mounting a 2-0 lead just 6:46 into the first period. It was all the offense Anaheim needed—Sean Monahan's fourth tally of the playoffs halved the lead in the second—though Ryan Getzlaf added the empty-netter to ice things with 6.7 seconds left.
The Ducks get some time to breathe before facing the winner of the Sharks-Oilers series, while the Flames get a head start on planning for the 2017-18 season.
Highlight of the Night, Part I
Erik Karlsson's slap-pass to set up Bobby Ryan's game-winner deserves more than an assist on the gamesheet.
Highlight of the Night, Part II
Tom Wilson did a little bit of everything for the Capitals in Game 4, including keeping this puck from getting behind his goalie.
Highlight of the Night, Honorable Mention
Thrilling action was at a premium between the Bruins and Senators on Wednesday, so when a beach ball hit the ice during play, referee Brad Meier put on a little magic show to please the Boston crowd.
3. Craig Anderson (OTT) - The Senators goalie didn’t see a whole lot of rubber in Game 4, but when he did, he came up big and stopped them all.
2. Tom Wilson (WSH) - Two more goals from the unlikely source, who's found a bit of a boost playing against his hometown team.
1. Devan Dubnyk (MIN) - The Wild needed a win, and the lanky goalie delivered 28 stops to blank the Blues and keep Minnesota's season alive.