He got knocked down, but he got up again. T.J. Oshie showed the Pittsburgh Penguins they were never going to keep him down.
Oshie left Wednesday night’s Washington Capitals game twice after being hit by a stick, then by an opponent’s shoulder, but he returned from both and scored the game-winning goal in a 2-1 win over Pittsburgh at Capital One Arena.
Alex Ovechkin also scored for the Capitals, John Carlson had two assists and Braden Holtby made 41 saves.
Oshie was hit in the face with Olli Maatta’s stick in the first period, giving him a gash between his left eye and the bridge of his nose. He returned to start the second period but had to leave again in the third when Evgeni Malkin shoulder-checked him in the head.
But the right winger and former Olympic hero hit the ice yet again in the waning minutes of a game seemingly headed for overtime. Carlson fed him a pass in the slot, and Oshie beat Casey DeSmith high for the deciding goal at 18:44.
“My face is a little messed up, but I’m feeling pretty good now,” Oshie said.
Oshie’s teammates clearly admired the night he had.
“You never want to see a teammate in that situation, but the term ‘warrior’ is brought up, and that’s T.J. Oshie to a tee,” Holtby said. “The way our game was going, once he came back, that gave us life. Guys like him, leaders like him, they know when to show up. You can tell once he stepped back on the ice that he had a mission to score and give it to them that way. That was phenomenal.”
Washington and Pittsburgh have combined to win the last three Stanley Cups, but they entered Wednesday with identical 6-4-3 records, struggling to gain their footing in the first quarter of the season. The Capitals edged ahead of their rivals in the Metropolitan Division standings and have won two games in a row for the first time all year.
The Penguins are on a five-game losing streak for the first time under coach Mike Sullivan.
This game was nothing like Pittsburgh’s 7-6 overtime win in October, as Holtby and DeSmith, the Penguins’ second-string goalie, refused to allow pucks by them at even strength for most of the night. DeSmith only had to face 22 Washington shots.
Oshie’s first exit from the game came just a few minutes after puck drop. Jakub Vrana filled in on the second line for the rest of the period, but Oshie received stitches and returned after first intermission.
Before that could happen, Sidney Crosby scored his 21st career goal against Washington while Pittsburgh was on its first power play. When Dmitry Orlov made a poor pass attempt from behind Washington’s net, Jack Johnson intercepted it and fed it to Crosby for a snipe at the 12:16 mark of the first.
The bitter rivals got into their first scuffle with five minutes left in the period when Carl Hagelin shoved Holtby onto his back. Patric Hornqvist popped in a would-be goal, but the goalie interference call negated it.
In a turn befitting the Capitals-Penguins rivalry, Ovechkin scored the game’s next goal when Crosby went to the box for hooking in the second. The captain scored on a slap shot from the left circle, assisted by Carlson and Backstrom.
Not only have the Capitals had the best power play success rate in the league this year, they entered the Pittsburgh game converting on a whopping 48 percent of power plays at home. However, the Capitals finished the night 1-for-6 on the man advantage.
Although the Penguins outshot the Capitals 17-10 in the second, Pittsburgh went scoreless in the period and wasted a power play opportunity with sloppy play while the Washington penalty kill dominated the puck.
Malkin’s disqualifying penalty against Oshie occurred about 3:30 into the final frame. Malkin was assessed a game misconduct for an illegal check to the head and Oshie left to be evaluated for a concussion, which he cleared.
Later, Oshie said he “didn’t care what happens” to Malkin, discipline-wise.
“Not my concern anymore,” Oshie said. “We got the ‘W.’”
Meanwhile, the Capitals had 3:51 of power play time once Travis Boyd finished serving a minor, but they couldn’t score on the opportunity.
But all that did was set up Oshie for the heroic game-winner, adding to his grinder-plus-sharpshooter reputation.
“He can play both ways,” Nicklas Backstrom said. “He can be gritty. He can be goal-scorer. I mean, he likes to be involved. As you can tell he was involved tonight.”
Oshie was itching to return while he was out of the game, undergoing concussion protocol and taking time on the exercise bike to drain fluids in his legs.
“I didn’t see it on TV, but all the guys that weren’t playing were in a part of the training room and when I came out they said that Pittsburgh was taking it to us and Holts was standing on his head,” Oshie said. “You get fired up when the team’s not playing well when you’re not in there. You want to be in there and try to help.”
The day off could give Oshie a chance to take a well-deserved break, especially after he received stitches. But in typical hockey player fashion, he won’t play those up.
“Can you see? Just two (stitches),” he said. “Don’t got to talk about it.”
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