footballreportersonline.com


Sport

Bozak's OT goal gives Leafs 2-1 series lead

Share
Toronto Maple Leafs right wing Kasperi Kapanen, of Finland celebrates his goal against the Washington Capitals during the second overtime in Game 2 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup first round playoff series in Washington Saturday

But it came with an asterisk.

Babcock took advantage of home-ice in Game 3, getting the unit away from the Capitals' top trio of defenders - John Carlson, Matt Niskanen, and Dmitry Orlov - and matching them a bit more against their third unit pairing of Kevin Shattenkirk and Brooks Orpik. Need an example? Head coach Barry Trotz had several of them - in overtime alone.

Andersen (47 saves) stopped Alex Ovechkin on a breakaway in the final minute of the first overtime. What if Brett Connolly's shot hadn't rang off the post? Kuznestov entered the offensive zone and handed the puck off to Johansson.

"We're going to give them a run for their money", Kapanen said of the Presidents' Trophy winners, who entered the playoffs vowing to erase a line of spring flops.

That Washington again found itself in this position, trailing late in the game, was frustrating after the Capitals vowed to improve its start to the game. The game is over if they score.

"Nate played really well", Trotz said.

"A couple years ago I got booed off the ice at the end of a game in my hometown, so we've crossed that one off the list", Wilson said last week.

"We've got to re-focus here, and make sure we're anxious about us, about our structure and our foundation, and that will get the job done". Game 4 is Wednesday at St. Louis.

It seemed as if the Leafs were winning all of the face-offs as game two went on.

A best-of-seven playoff series is all about managing momentum. Fifteen minutes throughout the entire game is not enough. That's why Toronto's win was so important. When he was injured the Leafs were dealt a significant blow to the blueline.

For the Capitals, whose ghosts of the past are still hanging around and haunting the team, there is a chance that the opposite might occur.

Despite holding Washington to 10 shots at the halfway mark of the game, the Leafs were burned on another power play.

"What I'm trying to say to you is life is way easier when you don't feel any tightness and everything is going good and you tic-tac-toe", Babcock said.

They were not supposed to make the playoffs this year. Obviously now, if you talk to our guys, our guys think they're a good hockey team. He finished second on the team's defence with 36 points.

Game 3 is Monday in Calgary. Eastern Conference and 6-1 in their last 7 games playing on 1 days rest.

Leafs head coach Mike Babcock sensed his group gaining confidence after almost swiping Game 1 at Verizon Center. "This was one of them. We expect a long series every time we come into one and this one is certainly no different and it's going to be a grind".

The Capitals scored two early goals in the first period.

However, I think that first overtime loss in game one pushed the Leafs further in their quest for the Stanley Cup, lighting a spark amongst the players.

It starts, however, with their speed and their ability to put teams on their heels.

When does doubt - real doubt - start to creep in?

"Today, for whatever reason, we had tons of energy, energy was not a problem. It does a lot for the belief and attitude in this room".

Babcock thought Matthews was doing just fine before Monday's breakout performance, but believed that Nylander had his best game of the playoffs in Game 3 with the "best legs he's had".

"I'm so excited", Zaitsev said on Monday morning at the Air Canada Centre.

This isn't just a quote for public consumption, something for the Toronto media to eat up and spit out to the legion of Leafs fans who are collectively pinching themselves right now. It'll be a great environment. you'll get chills down your spine when you're on the bench for both teams. We just got to stay strong, Freddie (Andersen) again was great making timely saves.

Besides, as Rielly pointed out, it's not as though the Leafs are looking around and thinking they're lucky to be in the playoffs. If you can keep it tight against a high-octane team like that, the puck doesn't move the same and the game is tighter for them.

Share