COLUMBUS, Ohio — When the Columbus Blue Jackets scored their first goal of Game 4, 6:22 into the third period, the Washington Capitals could have started to unravel. After all, they gave up leads in the first three games of their first-round series, twice surrendering a two-goal lead.
Instead, the Capitals held Columbus to that one goal and ran out the clock. And Braden Holtby had one teammate in mind when asked in the locker room about their successful puck management.
“I think that all started from T.J. Oshie. I think he took the game over,” Holtby said. “On a couple of the shifts, (he was) just pounding the puck, killing those minutes. Those are the things he does that he doesn’t get enough credit for to create wins. That’s the kind of leader he is, and everybody else followed after that.”
Oshie’s name also appeared in the score sheet Thursday with a power-play goal, his second of the series, and he added two hits and a takeaway.
The one-time Olympic hero is a scorer, not necessarily a fan favorite for taking care of the details. But as he plays through a nagging injury, the second-line winger said individual battles in the playoffs excite him.
“Sometimes it’s not always a skill, it’s just the will to win a battle,” Oshie said. “When I play that way, I hope it can be somewhat of an inspiration to some of the younger guys or just even the other guys that are able to see it. It means a lot that Holt noticed, but we still got a long ways to go and I got a lot more in me to show out there and to play that similar style.”
Oshie missed two of the last three games of the regular season, including a date in St. Louis against his old team, the Blues. He was listed day-to-day with a lower-body injury.
But he has not yet missed a playoff game in 2018. Oshie, 31, has been taking “maintenance days” to stay fresh, sitting out practice on April 14 and the morning skates before Games 3 and 4.
“I think everyone’s battling something. I could tell you I’m not gonna get any better in a pregame skate or a practice in between two playoff games, especially when they’re going into OT a lot,” Oshie said.
He nodded to teammate Jay Beagle, another fan favorite, who was stretching a leg muscle over to the side. “Maybe we can blame it on me getting a little older and not being an animal like Beags,” he joked.
Capitals coach Barry Trotz said it is important for players like Oshie to do what’s best for their own health, particularly during the playoffs. Like Holtby, Trotz also had praise for Oshie after Game 4.
“He enjoys the battles, he enjoys competition and he does it with a smile on his face,” Trotz said. “If you’re nicked up or you’re sore he just keeps battling through. He’s old school and he’s a hockey player.”