TORONTO â€” It’s not always the big names that are going to win you games in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
That was proven Wednesday night as Capitals forward Tom Wilson scored twice and saved a goal from his own net in Washington’s 5-4 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs in Game 4.
“I think it’s that time of year, there’s been some fabulous heroes, not always the ones that you think are going to be there,” Caps coach Barry Trotz said following the win. “Obviously the big names are always there, but I just think he played the right way today.
“He’s a growing young player who is physically very strong and he’s grown to be a good penalty killer and his game continues to grow. Real happy for him.”
The win tied the best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarter-final series at 2-2 with Game 5 set for Friday in Washington.
Wilson now has three goals in four playoff games, including the overtime winner in Game 1. The Toronto native had seven goals in 82 regular season games this season.
Wilson’s play has earned the confidence of Trotz, who moved the winger onto Washington’s third line alongside Andre Burakovsky and Lars Eller prior to the game.
Washington was hanging on to a 2-1 lead with 6:31 to play in the first period when Wilson prevented the game-tying goal. A Morgan Rielly shot squeezed through the pads of Braden Holtby, but Wilson dove into the crease to clear the puck from the goal-line.
Wilson gave Washington a two-goal cushion just 12 seconds later, re-directing an Eller shot past Frederik Andersen for his second goal of the series.
“It’s good awareness by him obviously and then that huge play right after,” said Holtby. “I probably shouldn’t let that puck get through me, he made up for my mistake there, goes down scores a goal.”
Washington made it a three-goal advantage 2:23 later with Wilson finishing off a 2-on-1 feed from Burakovsky for his third of the series. Wilson now has five goals in eight career games at Air Canada Centre.
“I just take them as they come, trying to work hard,” said Wilson of the first period. “We got scored on early so we needed to bounce back.”
Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock said before the series that the six-foot-four, 210-pound forward wasn’t a big concern prior to Game 1.
“When you’re a kid you always have big dreams and I was kind of lucky enough to fulfil them. It’s a huge privilege,” Wilson said. “There’s a lot of guys that work hard to get to this level and to get a chance to play in an NHL game is special and a playoff game is even better.”
Dhiren Mahiban, The Canadian Press