T.J. Oshie turns into scorer, leads Washington Capitals to Game 1 win

Capitals or Penguins: Who should be favored? (1:21)

Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon break down who they believe will come out on top in the Eastern Conference second round matchup between the Capitals and Penguins. (1:21)

WASHINGTON -- At one point T.J. Oshie was asked about his second goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins Thursday night.

"Yeah," the Washington Capitals winger said, thinking. "Um, the second one? The five-hole? Backhand? Oh, the breakaway. OK."

And then he started to chuckle as he realized that he was having trouble placing the exact moment he was being asked about because there were actually three such moments on this night.

Three goals, including the game-winner in overtime, that gave the Capitals a 4-3 victory and a one-game lead in this monster of a second-round series.

"I never have this problem," Oshie said with a laugh.

He's absolutely right, of course.

Had Oshie had such problems in the past -- scoring so many goals that he couldn't recall the specific details -- he likely wouldn't have become a Washington Capital.

But that's not how it played out.

A year ago, Oshie and his St. Louis Blues were still smarting from another first-round playoff exit, this one at the hands of the Minnesota Wild.

Oshie finished the six-game series with a goal and an assist and three months later he was dealt by the only NHL team he'd ever known to the Capitals in exchange for Troy Brouwer.

It was a hockey deal made by two teams desperate to change the course of their respective playoff histories, and this was a way of shaking the tree.

You could hardly argue the point.

In 30 postseason games with the Blues, Oshie scored five times and had a total of nine points. He never played beyond the second round.

Now, in seven games this spring with the Capitals, Oshie has four goals and three assists and, thanks in large part to his heroics, the Caps are three wins from the Eastern Conference finals.

In the aftermath of the trade, Oshie said he imagined nights like Thursday.

"I think in my past I haven't had the best numbers in playoffs and the team hasn't had the best numbers in playoffs, and so when you come in, this is the time of year that counts," the 29-year-old said.

"Obviously in the regular season you want to get yourself in the best possible position, but this is the time that really matters, so I was glad I was able to step up tonight. I'm sure it's going to be a different guy in a couple of nights from now."

He was asked why it hasn't happened for him in the playoffs historically.

"We're getting deep here," Oshie said with a laugh. "I don't know. Just haven't found the net enough. Hit on me is usually that I pass too much; maybe that's the reason tonight I was shooting a little bit more. I don't know, just haven't had success in the past and hopefully this can continue. It's feeling good right now."

It's been an eventful spring so far for Oshie.

He endeared himself to teammates by going after the Philadelphia Flyers' Brayden Schenn in the first round for a dirty play on teammate Evgeny Kuznetsov. Then, as the Capitals were set to open their highly anticipated second-round series against the red hot Penguins, he delivered a hat trick, including the overtime winner.

It was the kind of performance that general manager Brian MacLellan hoped might be delivered when he made the trade last July.

From the get-go, MacLellan and head coach Barry Trotz put Oshie with the team's top offensive players, Nicklas Backstrom and captain Alex Ovechkin, in the hopes that something lasting and productive could come from the union.

"I think it's just a great fit because he's got the sense to play with those guys and he works hard, he creates things," MacLellan told ESPN.com Thursday after the game.

Still, you don't know until you know whether something like this will work when it hasn't worked elsewhere.

"I think it's a big moment for him," MacLellan added. "I think he's been good. The first series he was good. Good teammate. Stuck up for Kuzy there, which was huge, [and] I think it says a lot about him and what he did for the team. And then to do it again tonight with three goals is huge. Big time. On a big stage against the best team in the East. It's a big deal."

Mike Richards is another relative newcomer to the Caps' lineup, having signed with the team in early January. But he knows Oshie well from playoff series between the Blues and one of Richards' old teams, the Los Angeles Kings. He wasn't surprised by what he saw from Oshie Thursday night.

"Obviously high skill. Thick, thick body and he's hard to get off the puck," Richards said. "He was awesome tonight. He was all over the ice taking hits, giving hits, controlling the puck, making plays. You can't say enough about him. He's a great leader. He does it all, to be honest."

We are just one game into a series that already has the feeling of an epic.

But for a player like Oshie, who has seen too few of these kinds of games and delivered too few of these kinds of performances, it stands as a moment to savor -- even if his teammates seem less than surprised that it happened.