Tom Wilson strikes again as unlikely difference-maker for Capitals

The Capitals and Maple Leafs continue to duke it out in what is the best series of the Stanley Cup Playoffs so far.

After the Leafs took a 2-1 series lead with an overtime victory in Game 3 earlier this week, I wrote that the Capitals need to take advantage of their depth to overpower Toronto and climb back into the series. On Wednesday night, they were able to do that as they came away with a 5-4 victory on the road to even the series.

Not only did Washington get solid contributions from their heavy-hitters up front — especially Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie — but they also got a career-best performance from Tom Wilson.

Wilson is more recognized for being an instigator and physical presence on the ice than he is for being a difference-maker on the scoreboard, but the 23-year-old had the game of his life on Wednesday.

Not only did Wilson score twice — the first multi-goal game of his NHL career — but he also prevented a goal for Toronto with what might be the best save of the series.

On a wild sequence in the first period, Wilson made a diving stick save to prevent the puck from rolling across the goal line after it trickled through Caps’ netminder Braden Holtby, then immediately went down to the other end of the ice and scored a goal on a deflection in front of the Leafs’ net.

It was a hell of a swing for the Capitals, and one that ultimately made a huge difference in game decided by a single goal.

Wilson, who scored seven goals all regular season, went on to add a second tally on an odd-man rush later in the period.

It may not have been the sexiest overall game for Wilson, but for bottom-six depth players it’s more about taking advantage of the opportunities in front of you than it is about being sexy. Wilson was able to become an unlikely difference-maker by taking advantage of those opportunities.

It wasn’t the first time he’s been able to put his stamp on this series, either. Wilson also played the role of surprise hero in Game 1 when he netted the game-winner in overtime.

Through the first four Capitals’ playoff games, would anyone have guessed that Wilson would play a central role in earning both of their victories? Probably not, yet here we are.