Toronto Maple Leafs fans celebrate after Mitch Marner scored, as people watch the broadcast of the team's opening NHL hockey playoff game against the Washington Capitals, at Maple Leaf Square in Toronto on Thursday, April 13, 2017.
The Toronto Maple Leafs will have one of their top defenders back in the lineup for a pivotal Game 3 against the Washington Capitals. The Capitals admitted to nerves in Game 1, leading to a 2-0 first-period deficit in the opener, and even when it appeared that they came out with more energy in Game 2, Toronto still scored first.
Last May, Kapanen tallied the tying goal late in Game 7 to help the Marlies get past Albany in the second round of the Calder Cup Playoffs and he did the same for the Leafs last Saturday, scoring his first National Hockey League goal in the third period of their playoff-clinching win over Pittsburgh. Unusual things can happen to turn a hockey game and Toronto wasn't overwhelmed by Washington in Game 1 and I don't suspect they will be in Game 2 either.
Since then, he has become the calming voice in the locker room teammates trust when games are their most tense, such as when Washington suddenly faced a two-goal hole Thursday night against the Maple Leafs. His overtime victor came off a brilliant feed from veteran Brian Boyle, who appeared like he would circle the goal, but instead quickly shuttled a backhand dish to Kapanen just above the goal-line.
That Washington was able to come from behind and force overtime for a second straight game was a credit to its potent power play.
"The team played really well today", Kapanen said.
"I think Rielly has been as good as he's been since I got here the last two games", Babcock said. For me, watching the regular season seemed nearly meaningless - just something to slog through before we got to the real action.
"Nobody said it's going to be an easy series", Ovechkin said.
With the Capitals down early in Game 1 against the Maple Leafs, Williams was at his best.
The Leafs certainly played hard, as they jumped out ahead of the Capitals, 2-0. Jake Gardiner and Rielly both played over 40 minutes in his absence. They're going to have their surges, they're going to score some goals, the bounces are going to go their way sometimes, and we've got to work for our bounces.
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After tinkering with his forward combos the first two months, Trotz has largely elected to stay with the same lines since late December.
James van Riemsdyk opened the scoring late in the first to give Toronto the lead, Washington responded and took over the game in the middle frame with a pair of power play goals from Alex Ovechkin and John Carlson and things got worse later in the second, as veteran blueliner Roman Polak left the game after being hit by Caps defenseman Brooks Orpik near the Leafs bench.
"Boyle has been really strong in the faceoff circle, Marty (Matt Martin) is a presence and Kappy (Kasperi Kapanen) can fly", Leafs coach Mike Babcock said.
"Maybe we'll tweak something", Trotz said.
"It's nothing we're not used to".
Even young legs were feeling the strain as the clock ticked away and fans at Verizon Center were warned about the Metro system closing at midnight.
"Obviously their goalie play well tonight", Ovechkin said. He played 4:11 shorthanded in Game 2.
"I don't know what to say", Capitals alternate captain Nicklas Backstrom told reporters. I think you get a chance or an opportunity, you've got to bury them. Every one of those attempts requires Andersen to get down in a crouch and ready himself for a save - an especially taxing task when the game lasts more than 90 minutes.
One goal in each game has separated these teams that were 23 points apart in the regular season.
Rather than fret about this series suddenly being tied and if that's ominous for Washington, let's instead examine some reasons this series is tied and how the Capitals can now regain a lead in it.
Now everyone else realizes that, too. "Playoff jitters a little bit to start", Williams said of his team.