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Photo Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Leafs Postgame: Seed. Planted.

After one of the best games Leafs fans have seen in the last 20 years, Toronto returned home for game three against the Caps.

It goes without saying, but a win would do wonders for the Leafs’ chances of slaying the giant, while a loss would be borderline catastrophic.

Here’s how Toronto’s 4-3 win over the Washington Capitals played out (buds all day hell ya baby).

THE RUNDOWN

Things could not have gotten off to a worse start.

Just over two and a half minutes into the game, Nicklas Backstrom notched his second of the series on an ugly defensive effort by Toronto.

Some will blame Zaitsev on this play, others, Van Reimsdyk. Truth is, it’s both of their faults. They need to communicate and find out who’s going to make sure that the guy who scored 86 points this season doesn’t go untouched to the net.

Two minutes later, Leafs killer #3485739, Alex Ovechkin, gave the Caps the worst lead in hockey.

You could say that one was a ‘dart’. Sorry. Trying to delete. Seriously, though – Ovi’s still got it. Andersen didn’t have a chance at stopping this one. Sometimes the other team just plain beats you. 2-0 Caps.

Then, about 10 minutes later, came ‘The Shift’.

Honestly, was that the best ~45 seconds of hockey we’ve seen all year? First, Kadri absolutely blows up Brooks Orpik in the corner.

Then, Komarov goes hard after Ovechkin.

After that, Kadri blows up Orpik again.

THEN, with the crowd on their feet, Matthews scores his first career playoff goal, cutting Washington’s lead to one.

Lordy. Washington took a 2-1 lead to the second.

The second went much like the first. An early goal by Washington all but deflated the Leafs (and the crowd’s) energy. However, it’s not about how you start, it’s how you finish.

After two successful penalty kills (one coming on a two-minute 5 on 3), Toronto started to gain momentum, which culminated in Nazem Kadri’s first of the series.

This came after a ‘heavy shift’ in Washington’s end, and a lot of the credit here has to go to Brown and Rielly. Your typical playoff goal brought Toronto back to within striking distance, down 3-2.

Honestly, I would have been happy going to the third down just one goal. Each game has been close, and going to the final frame down one would have been par for the course. Luckily, William Nylander and the Leafs didn’t feel the same way.

Should Zach Hyman be on a line with Matthews and Nylander? No, probably not. However, what he’s good at, he’s really good at, and that’s getting pucks in deep, then backing off to let Nylander and Matthews work their magic.

Two things on this goal.

  1. Holtby’s initial save was incredible. He’s incredible. My god.
  2. Check out Matthews’ centering pass to Willie. I can’t believe these guys are Leafs.

Anyways, we had a tie game heading to the third!

Since I’ve bombarded you guys with a million gifs, I’m not going to go play by play for the third period. All you need to know is that it was probably the best 20 minutes of hockey I’ve ever seen in my 21 years on earth. Neither team scored, each got chances, and Toronto dominated. Onwards.

The Leafs started OT with a man advantage courtesy of a Lars Eller high stick on Zach Hyman in the final minute of regulation. The Leafs’ powerplay has been garbage for a few games now, but luckily, they decided to wake up. Is this real life? Here’s Tyler Bozak’s game-winning goal.

This was one of the most entertaining games I’ve ever watched, and super encouraging as well. This is a Leafs team that, at the start of the season, probably would have folded when Washington went up 3-1. The fact that they were able to battle back and, frankly, dominate the best team in the NHL is really damn impressive.

THE STATS

The Leafs seemed to flip a switch somewhere near the end of the second period and thoroughly dominated the game from that point forward. There wasn’t a player that stood out as having a bad game, although Zaitsev did look rusty and I didn’t exactly love the third goal on Andersen.

This is probably the most dominating the Leafs have looked so far this series. They’re stepping up to the challenge and exceeding expectations. Look, even Mike Modano’s a believer.

Also, shoutout to hockeystats.ca for the dart guy goal markers. Great stuff.

Individually, in case it wasn’t already clear, the Matthews line was easily Toronto’s best. Also, two huge, huge games from Gardiner and Rielly.

BLUE WARRIOR

I know I say this a lot when I write these recaps, but there are so many players this could go to.

Tyler Bozak had one of his best games as a Leaf (seriously, I’ve never seen him skate like that) and scored the game winner, Wiliam Nylander was his usual self, Nazem Kadri was a beast, and many on the blueline played a great game as well.

I’ll give it to Bozak – I think he deserves it for a few reasons. First of all, as I mentioned, he played one of the best games I’ve ever seen him play. He’s completely changed my view on him as a player, and while he’s still someone the Leafs should look to move for help on D, in the end, he’s a really valuable asset. Oh yeah, and he also scored the biggest goal in his career tonight. BUDS ALL DAY.

UP NEXT

Toronto’s back in action Wednesday night at the ACC for game four. Good luck getting tickets.

    • Gary Empey

      TLN Predicts The First Round

      Ryan Fancey – Jessica Pincente – Adam Laskaris – Dylan Fremlin = Ian Tulloch – Bobby Cappucino – Jeff Veillette – All picked Washington to win it, in six games

      Cam Lewis – Even Presemant – Ryan Hobart Dom Luszczyszyn – All picked Washington to win it in five games.

      • Yeah, I think a lot of us went with the safe bet. I also wrote at length before Game 1 about how it’s still a winnable series for Toronto, but no matter what happens from this point forward I say Caps in 6 was likely the safest prediction.

        Safe means nothing in the playoffs though, and we’re seeing that with how the Leafs have played in this series. Hopefully it continues.

        • Gary Empey

          You certainly weren’t in the minority. Throughout the year the Caps dominated the league. Adding Kevin Shattenkirk at the trade deadline appeared to be the cherry on the top of their cake. It certainly is not over be any stretch of the imagination. Let’s face facts, either team could be down 3 an 0 at this point.

    • ChasinSF

      Caps in six still means the Leafs won 2 and … they’ve won two. So the caps need to win three in a row. Safer bet is they win Wed to tie it up and it becomes best 2 out of 3 with two of those in DC. Just sayin’ … it’s great the Leafs are doing well but each game has gone to OT and Toronto has had a lot of puck luck when you look at the number of posts Kuznetsov alone has hit, including one last night. Bounces have definitely gone Toronto’s way so far e.g. Matthews last night, Saturday night Orlov looses his stick so Kappy scores the OT winner etc etc … but that’s bound to change.

  • Gary Empey

    I am always surprised how quickly Marner sees and then passes the puck to an open man. I am going to give a shout out to all the deserving Leafs fans who work shifts and have to get the results in bit and pieces. I know what it feels like.

  • Harte of a Lion

    For Leafs fans, that was the most fun you can have, with your clothes on. There is still a long way to go but WHOOOOP!
    Babcock told the players before game 1, you can always say to yourselves after losing a series, “there’s always next time, however look how many good teams didn’t make the playoffs”. “Next time doesn’t always come. Your next time is right now!”
    Go Leafs!

    • Gary Empey

      Your picks are good. It has been such a total team effort, I find it hard to pick a Star Player. It is not as if the Capitals have dropped the ball. They have been playing very hard to win this series. Three games going into overtime means the teams are very evenly matched. Barry Trotz is a good coach and now must be wondering if he needs a different game plan

      • AussieBoy

        Totally.
        The current composition,even with the latest injuries on D,is still a real threat.
        They slay the Dragon,then it’s “On for Young and Old”….

        Then anything is possible.

  • DukesRocks

    All the who’s who on the Leafs did something that caught my eye in this game and contributed to the win. However, the two players that stood out for me were Marincin and Kadri. Marincin did a great job on the 2 man PK and helped keep the game 3-1. Kadri, seeing the Caps running his teammates and getting tagged himself, delivered two thunderous hits on Orpik to get the crowd into the game and cue the comeback.

    On a separate note, in the last few minutes of the 3rd period, was that Jake Gardiner laying two great bodychecks. I hope he plays like that more often.

  • Brent Wisken

    Rielly had a great game once again. He’s been at the top of his game throughout the series. Kadri played huge, hard hitting and on the scoresheet. Good to see Bozak get the overtime goal. In fairness to Zaitsev, it was his first game back from a concussion and perhaps he came back too soon. Moreover, it was his first playoff game, whereas all the other players had already played a couple of games. I thought he settled in during the second half of the game.

  • Glen

    Super comeback, showing lots of grit and determination. Still lots of work to do in this series, but whatever happens in this series the future looks brighter than it has since 59. The sixties Leafs are the last great team. I guess if you weren’t alive then the 93, or 99 would have been the best to you. Anyway GLG.

  • Justin.PI

    Man what a series so far. Props to the kids. My only one drawback however, and this isn’t to sound negative just something I’ve noticed, is that marner so far seems like he’s getting man handled everytime he touches the puck. Seemingly, he’s dumping it in more rather then his characteristic dangles into the zone to create some insane play. He’s still made some unreal passes and plays but doesn’t seem himself

    • The Russian Rocket

      I know what you mean. I think there’s a chance he’s just trying to pick his spots better. The risk of turning the puck over at the blue line is too great right now. The Capitals have too much skill, and TBH the Marner-Bozak-JVR line is not great in our end so it’s probably for the best. Seems to be working!

    • Gary Empey

      To dump it in or to carry it in is part of the game play of the coaches. I think our coaches think we can wear out Washington’s defensive squad by having them chase the puck down in their own end with a speedy forechecker on their tail.