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Kapanen scores double OT winner as Leafs beat Capitals 4-3

Highlights of Thursday's NHL games Upstart Maple Leafs out to level series vs. Capitals
Montrelle Montesinos | 17 Abril, 2017, 09:05

ABOUT THE CAPITALS: Captain Alex Ovechkin traditionally has the answer for most of the problems on the ice, but the three-time Hart Trophy victor was at a loss for his team's slow start out of the gate. The Presidents' Trophy-winning Capitals could exhale because they survived a serious scare from the Maple Leafs in their playoff opener.

The pressure the Capitals feel most right now, however, has to do with how well Toronto is playing, with the Leafs showing no signs of being intimidated by the situation despite their youth.

The Toronto Maple Leafs proved they belong in the Stanley Cup playoffs with their strong performance against the Washington Capitals in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference first-round series Thursday night. If Frederick Anderson can manage to match or outplay Braden Holtby, Toronto has a great possibility of walking away with this series, breaking every fan in Washington's hearts.

"We've been chasing this series a little bit", Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. "Playoff jitters a little bit to start", Williams said of his team. In the minutes leading up to Backstrom's tying goal in the third period, the Capitals played their dominant offensive-zone puck possession game to a tee, wearing the Leafs down and out, and maintaining possession of the puck in the attack zone long enough to get a complete change in personnel while the five Leafs on the ice had all been on for more than a minute. The Maple Leafs are 5-18 in the last 23 meetings in Washington, 1-8 in the last 9 meetings and the home team is 21-8 in the last 29 meetings.

There's time to get going-anything short of 15 more wins this postseason would be a disappointment for the Capitals-but not unlimited time. It became a Fast and Furious auto race all of a sudden, and here's the thing: when you get right down to it, that is Toronto's natural state of being.

"I know when we played them, I thought Toronto was a matchup nightmare because you couldn't match them line for line", he added. "We're just going to play game-by-game and shift-by shift and we're going to do our best".

A missed opportunity, or an encouraging sign that the Maple Leafs could stretch this into a long series? It was the second day in a row Zaitsev skated, and to have him back would lessen the blow of losing Polak, who won't return this season, in a hurry.

Polak landed awkwardly on his leg after taking a legal hit from Washington's Brooks Orpik.

They will hope to get the injured Nikita Zaitsev back for Monday's Game 3 at Air Canada Centre.

"I don't know 100 percent for sure", Babcock said Sunday. "They've done lots of wonderful things all year". Their D aren't great, but they're all good skaters and they can gap well the way [coach Mike Babcock] likes to gap. "I was lobbying the best I could today, but they don't much care what I say".

"You look around, they're always anywhere from a six- to seven-game series ..."

"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". "The thing that he does really well that I think is really underrated is he's got a quick stick and that quick stick he's got a lot of the (Pavel) Datsyuk pick stick, he'll get you from behind". I've been the underdog, and I've had the best team in hockey. I believe the two can happen in conjunction with each other.

Of course, the Leafs will probably have to win Game 3 — and maybe even Game 4 — to cause some real uncertainty in Washingtons players. "We've got to get in front of him a little more". Marner has points in all five career games against Washington.

"He was pressing for points towards the end of the year [after going pointless in his first 15 National Hockey League games dating back to last season]". As much as they've been good soldiers who have played some quality hockey here down the stretch, needless to say, it's going to be pretty hard to win a playoff series against the Capitals with Hunwick and Polak playing over 20 even-strength minutes apiece (26 and 24 total, respectively).

"I think we've proved to everybody that we can play with these guys", said Kapanen. The young Maple Leafs, previously unfamiliar with the frenzy of this moment, got the double-overtime goal courtesy of a fourth-liner in Kapanen who scarcely played during the regular season.