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Capitals are in! Oshie scores game-winner into empty net

In Sports
April 17, 2024

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — T.J. Oshie shot the puck into an empty net and, in the process, scored one of the more improbable game-winning goals in recent NHL history and sent the Washington Capitals to the playoffs.

Oshie’s empty-net goal with 3 minutes left helped the exhausted Capitals beat the Philadelphia Flyers 2-1 on Tuesday night under absurd circumstances. The score was tied when Philadelphia coach John Tortorella pulled his goaltender for an extra attacker because his team needed to win in regulation to keep its hopes alive.

What Tortorella didn’t know was that Detroit scoring with 3.3 seconds remaining to force to overtime at Montreal perhaps a minute earlier actually eliminated the Flyers.

“We’ll take it,” Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin said. “Thanks, Philly.”

Tortorella found out just after Oshie’s empty-netter about the Red Wings result. By then, it was too late, and the result also eliminated Detroit and the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Washington will face the Presidents’ Trophy-winning New York Rangers in the first round beginning this weekend, returning to the playoffs after a one-year absence ended their eight-year streak.

“It means a lot,” said Oshie, one of a handful of players remaining from the Capitals’ 2018 Stanley Cup team, along with Ovechkin, John Carlson and Tom Wilson. “Once you win one time, the regular season just doesn’t have as much meaning as the playoff games, so to get back there is going to be super special and definitely won’t take it for granted. The boys will be ready to rock.”

A recent six-game losing streak looked to have tanked the Caps’ chances, but behind more strong play from goalie Charlie Lindgren, they kept themselves in the race. Lindgren looked shaky at times against the Flyers, giving up some big rebounds, but he made the saves, 27 total, when they mattered in his second start in as many days and 48th of the season — by far the most he has played in his NHL career.

“He’s been arguably our MVP,” coach Spencer Carbery said. “He’s been fantastic all year. He earned the opportunity to play this in back to back, and he delivered once again.”

Ovechkin provided the earlier offense, scoring his 31st goal of the season and 853rd of his career on a deflection of Dylan McIlrath‘s shot late in the first to move 42 back of breaking Wayne Gretzky’s record. The only goal Lindgren allowed was a similar redirection by veteran defenseman Erik Johnson, a trade deadline acquisition by Philadelphia not known for his scoring prowess.

Before being pulled, Flyers goalie Samuel Ersson stopped 16 of the 17 shots he faced.

“That was one of the most encouraging things of it all, is the last three games that Ers can go home in the summer with that,” Tortorella said. “It’s ridiculous how much we played him. But he gets to go home feeling he rebounded and he found himself again.”

The Capitals found themselves over and over again this season, going from low preseason expectations to somehow in contention to trade deadline sellers to playoff front-runners. It’s only fitting they took the final step to the playoffs in unusual fashion, and the Rangers are up next.

“Significant challenge,” Carbery said. “Best team in the NHL, so we know we have our hands full.”

UP NEXT

Flyers: Can point to their own seven-game skid late in the season as the reason they didn’t make the playoffs ahead of schedule for their rebuild.

Capitals: Play Game 1 against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden either Saturday or Sunday.

___

AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/nhl

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