Washington — Sergei Bobrovsky looked as poised facing 58 shots as he did before the game when he calmly walked down the hallway in a buttoned-up beige trench coat.
On the ice, Bobrovsky stood out even more. The goaltender with a history of playoff struggles looked like his two-time Vezina Trophy-winning self in making 54 saves as the Columbus Blue Jackets beat the Washington Capitals, 5-4, on Sunday night on Matt Calvert's overtime winner to take a 2-0 lead in the first-round playoff series.
"He's our best player and he was our best player by a mile tonight," said Calvert, whose one-handed rebound 12:22 into overtime sent the Blue Jackets into a frenzy. "It makes us confident. When you've got him making up for your mistakes, it's always good. He's been doing it all season."
The playoff version of Bobrovsky of years past was a confounding nightmare compared with his elite play during the regular season: 3-10 with a 3.63 goals-against average and .887 save percentage. Through two games this year, the second of which coach John Tortorella called "one of the best goaltending performances" he has seen, the reserved Russian has stopped 81 of 88 shots to send Columbus home for Game 3 on Tuesday in a place it's never been before.
The Blue Jackets had never led a playoff series until Thursday night. With "Bob" locked in as never before in the Stanley Cup playoffs, they're two victories away from advancing to the second round for the first time in franchise history.
"I would say your career is a journey and you learn some things here and there," Bobrovsky said. "It doesn't matter what's in the past. When we're gonna play third game, it doesn't matter what happen tonight. Each moment is huge right now, and you just have to be ready."
Columbus appears ready for anything against an experienced opponent with a history of playoff disappointments that has now blown two-goal leads in consecutive games. As in Game 1 when charging and tripping calls on Tom Wilson and Andre Burakovsky cost the Capitals, they were done in by penalties on Wilson and Devante Smith-Pelly that led to goals by Cam Atkinson and Zach Werenski.
Alex Ovechkin scored twice on the power play and T.J. Oshie tied it with 3:35 left to give Washington a chance. When Philipp Grubauer was pulled for allowing four goals on 22 shots, Braden Holtby made seven saves, but now the Metropolitan Division champions are in a hole only 49 of 361 teams (13.6 percent) have dug out of to win a best-of-seven series.
"Right now in hard position, but it's going to be fun when we bounce back and tie the series," Ovechkin said.
Coach Barry Trotz, who said he'd let his decision on who starts Game 3 simmer, added that the Capitals are "not going away." Through two games, the Blue Jackets have shown they aren't, either.
Penalty trouble almost cost the Blue Jackets as much as the Capitals, but they got to leave celebrating after Calvert's OT goal held up to an offside review by the NHL situation room. Replays showed Calvert was just onside before scoring to make the Blue Jackets just the fifth team in NHL history to overcome a multi-goal deficit to win the first two games of a playoff series.
"Luckily, I got the rebound, had one hand on my stick and the rest is history," Calvert said. "Two games in overtime, that can really crush a team."
History says Calvert is right. The Capitals are the sixth team to lose games 1 and 2 of a best-of-seven series in overtime, and the previous five have all lost.
NOTES: Columbus forward Josh Anderson scored after being ejected from Game 1 for boarding Washington's Michal Kempny. Columbus improved to 4-1 all-time in playoff overtime games. … Linesman Steve Barton had to be helped off the ice late in the first period after clipping skates with Anderson and going down clutching his left knee. On site as the standby official, mid-amateur golfer/referee Garrett Rank replaced Barton as the second linesman. ... Columbus center Alexander Wennberg was out after taking a hit to the head from Wilson in Game 1. Coach John Tortorella only called Wennberg "day-to-day" with an upper-body injury. … Capitals forward Jakub Vrana was a healthy scratch after recording an assist and committing two turnovers in 6:58 of ice time in Game 1.
Columbus 1 3 0 1—5
Washington 2 1 1 0—4
First period—1, Washington, Beagle 1 (Orpik, Jerabek), 2:12. 2, Washington, Ovechkin 1 (Oshie, Carlson), 13:26 (pp). 3, Columbus, Atkinson 1 (Foligno), 18:25. Penalties—Jerabek, WSH, (delay of game), 5:46; Atkinson, CBJ, (interference), 12:07; Kuznetsov, WSH, (slashing), 16:05; Dubois, CBJ, (slashing), 16:05.
Second period—4, Washington, Ovechkin 2 (Backstrom, Carlson), 4:09 (pp). 5, Columbus, Anderson 1 (Jones, Werenski), 8:49. 6, Columbus, Atkinson 2 (Panarin, Jones), 11:13 (pp). 7, Columbus, Werenski 1 (Panarin, Bjorkstrand), 18:52 (pp). Penalties—Dubinsky, CBJ, (high sticking), 4:01; Wilson, WSH, (roughing), 10:36; Foligno, CBJ, (interference), 14:17; Smith-Pelly, WSH, (holding stick), 17:40.
Third period—8, Washington, Oshie 1 (Carlson, Backstrom), 16:25 (pp). Penalties—Calvert, CBJ, (tripping), 3:56; Dubois, CBJ, (interference), 12:23; Werenski, CBJ, (delay of game), 15:09; Jenner, CBJ, (slashing), 18:01.
Overtime—9, Columbus, Calvert 1 (Werenski, Anderson), -2:38. Penalties—Niskanen, WSH, (tripping), -11:-9.
Shots on goal—Columbus 8-14-5-3—30. Washington 19-12-21-6—58.
Power-play opportunities—Columbus 2 of 4; Washington 3 of 7.
Goalies—Columbus, Bobrovsky 2-0 (58 shots-54 saves). Washington, Grubauer 0-1 (22-18), Holtby 0-1 (8-7).
A—18,506 (18,277). T—3:29.
Referees—Steve Kozari, Brian Pochmara. Linesmen—Steve Barton, Devin Berg.
Penguins take control with 5-1 win over Flyers
Sidney Crosby had a goal and three assists and Matt Murray stopped 26 shots to help the Pittsburgh Penguins silence a raucous Philadelphia crowd and beat the Flyers 5-1 on Sunday to take a 2-1 lead in the first-round playoff series.
Two of the so-called fiercest rivals in the NHL have provided three lopsided games: Pittsburgh's 7-0 win in Game 1 and Philadelphia's 5-1 victory in Game 2 could about qualify as nail-bitters in this series.
Justin Schultz made it 5-1 in the third on Pittsburgh's third power-play goal of the game.
Brian Elliott, yanked in Game 1, had another rough outing and might need to borrow fellow Wells Fargo Center tenant Joel Embiid's black mask to have a better look at the puck.
The Flyers haven't won a playoff series since 2012 and pulled out all the theatrical stops in their return to the postseason after a one-year absence. Light-up bracelets flickered in the darkened arena and another packed house roared "Crosby sucks! Crosby sucks!"
Here's the thing Philly fans haven't realized, he really doesn't — and especially not against the Flyers.
Crosby, who has 93 points in 63 career regular-season games against Philly, shut up the orange-and-black die-hards with a wraparound goal off a turnover midway through the first.
Crosby had a hat trick in Game 1 and the three-time Stanley Cup champion showed no sign of easing up.
Flyers fans even stuck photos of the hated Crosby inside the urinals throughout the arena that had to guarantee they were more on target with their shots than anyone on the home team's roster.
The Flyers ran a video package full of bloody fights, big goals and memorable moments between the teams through the years with a "Bitter Rivals" caption. The Penguins could have just looked in their reflection from the 2016 and 2017 Cups and shrugged off the idea the Flyers are in their league.
Brassard scored on the power play just 2:48 into the second. Then came back-to-back stunning goals that put the icing on the urinal cake: Malkin scored on a one-timer and Dumoulin off the faceoff beat Elliott through the five-hole for a 4-0 lead. Crosby had both assists, naturally.
At that point, each team had 12 shots.
The Flyers, who played more like the team that lost 10 straight games over November-December, had no shot at pulling off the comeback. Travis Sanheim scored late in the third for the Flyers' lone goal.
Mikael Granlund and Zach Parise scored power-play goals in the first period for the spark Minnesota was missing on the road, and the Wild used a four-goal second to roar back in the first-round playoff series with a 6-2 victory over the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday night.
The Wild will try to tie the best-of-seven series 2-2 in Game 4 at home Tuesday night.
Matt Dumba and Marcus Foligno bookended the furious middle frame with goals for the Wild, who won a postseason home game for only the second time in their last nine contests. Mikko Koivu and Nick Seeler each had two assists and Devan Dubnyk made 29 saves, keeping the crowd loud all night.
After overtaking the Wild with two third-period goals to win 3-2 in Game 1 and dominating the action in Game 2 on the way to a 4-1 victory, the Jets hit some minor turbulence for the first time in the series. The blizzard that blanketed the Twin Cities forced their charter flight to land in Duluth on Saturday afternoon and return to Winnipeg for the night. The Jets skipped the customary morning skate and arrived Sunday about eight hours before faceoff.
Whether or not the Jets were actually affected by the weather hardly mattered, given the way the Wild greeted them after the lackluster performance in Game 2.
The only shot the Jets sent on target over the first 11-plus minutes was the one by Wheeler that went in, a wide-angle attempt on the power play that hit Jonas Brodin's stick and fluttered toward Dubnyk. The puck hit his glove and fell in the corner of the net, a soft goal if there ever was one.
The Wild snapped right back, though. Koivu took the initial shot that set up both goals in the first period, with Granlund waiting for the rebound on the first one . Parise freed himself from a tie-up in traffic with Jacob Trouba to move in position for the redirect of the second one.
The second period went from bad to worse for the Jets, trailing 5-2, when Myers was checked by Foligno and caught his skate at the bottom of the boards. He needed help off the ice and into the locker room and did not return.