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 trenchcoat.
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 to 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 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 like 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.”
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.
Penguins 5, Flyers 1
In Philadelphia, Sidney Crosby had a goal and three assists and Matt Murray stopped 26 shots to help Pittsburgh silence a raucous crowd and 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: the Penguins’ 7-0 win in Game 1 and the Flyers’ 5-1 victory in Game 2 could about qualify as nail-bitters in this series.
Game 4 is Wednesday night in Philadelphia.
Wild 6, Jets 2
In St. Paul, Minnesota, Mikael Granlund and Zach Parise scored power-play goals in the first period for the spark the Wild were missing on the road, and Minnesota used a four-goal second to roar back against Winnipeg in their Western Conference series.
The Wild will try to tie the best-of-seven series 2-2 in Game 4 at home Tuesday night.
Golden Knights 3, Kings 2
In Los Angeles, James Neal scored the tiebreaking goal with 5:37 to play, and the Golden Knights rallied from a third-period deficit to move to the brink of the expansion franchise’s first playoff series victory.
Cody Eakin tied it at 6:10 of the third, and William Karlsson scored 21 seconds after Neal’s goal to make it 3-1 in a final-period flurry for the Golden Knights, whose storybook debut season just keeps getting more exciting and more outlandish.
Vegas will go for the sweep in Game 4 on Tuesday night in Los Angeles.