Williams the OT hero as Caps beat Leafs in Game 5

Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Jake Gardiner (51) battles for the puck with Washington Capitals center Evgeny Kuznetsov of Russia, during the second period of Game 5 in an NHL Stanley Cup first-round playoff series, Friday in Washington. (AP photo)


AP Hockey Writer

WASHINGTON — “Mr. Game 7” is the Washington Capitals’ new Mr. Game 5.

Justin Williams added to his legendary playoff status by scoring 64 seconds into overtime to give the Capitals a 2-1 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Friday night and a 3-2 lead in the tight first-round series.

The Presidents’ Trophy winners survived a scare when Alex Ovechkin went down in the first period and are a victory in Game 6 at Toronto on Sunday away from surviving this challenge from the Maple Leafs and advancing to the second round for a rematch with the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins.

After overtime was needed for the fourth time in five games, the Capitals had Williams to thank for another big goal.

“I haven’t scored that many big goals,” said Williams, who has 16 goals in 44 tries in Games 5-7 as his team improved to 26-18 in those situations. “I was in the right place at the right time.”

Williams took the pass from linemate Evgeny Kuznetsov, shot as hard as he could and beat Frederik Andersen for his second postseason overtime goal. The three-time Cup winner who earned the nickname “Mr. Game 7” for his seven goals and 7-0 record in Game 7s only knew it went in when Marcus Johansson raised his arms in the air.

“Mr. Game 7,” Ovechkin said of Williams. “It’s all it takes. One shot and we get the (series) lead. Right now we going back to play in Toronto and try to win there.”

Washington has the upper hand in the series that couldn’t possibly be any closer on the ice or by the numbers. The Capitals have 16 goals to the Maple Leafs’ 15, and the teams are tied at 175 shots apiece.

“It’s a good series. It’s a lot of fun,” Toronto coach Mike Babcock said. “These games are good. We’ve been in overtime four times. It’s a good competitive series.”

Williams missed on a couple of chances in front earlier in the game and had a quality opportunity to win it late in regulation. Now with three goals in the series, he didn’t miss his shot in overtime and was perhaps the least surprising goal scorer with the game on the line.

“The more important the game, the bigger Justin plays,” said T.J. Oshie, who scored a power-play goal in the first period for the Capitals. “He’s one of those guys that when everyone gets tense and everyone grabs their sticks a little tight, he gets more focused and finds ways to pull off the big play. Obviously, that’s what we needed at that time and he stepped up for us.”