And the Maple Leafs defenceman, as you might imagine, couldn’t be happier.
Kapanen had won his first and only faceoff of the night a few moments earlier, his line among the fresher groups at that late stage of overtime.
The Maple Leafs scored the final two goals of the second period to send the game to the third period tied at 3. “They’re in the playoffs for a reason”. The son of longtime National Hockey League forward Sami Kapanen didn’t get called up until late March but scored in the Maple Leafs’ playoff clincher and is developing quite the reputation for making big plays.
In fact, it was the Maple Leafs who scored on the man advantage, again building on a dismal 16.7 percent success rate.
“He was by far our best player tonight”, said Toronto defenseman Jake Gardiner, who played a game-high 40:42. They lost that series in seven games to Vancouver. Washington’s back is against the wall now as the victor of Game 3 after a 1-1 split goes on to win the series 67.6-percent of the time.
Watch the game? Tell us what you thought! “That’s never been a doubt in our mind”. He defines Leafs Nation, at least the rawness aspect of it. He thinks his only chance of containing Matthews is by outworking him.
Toronto leads the best-of-seven series 2-1. That evened up the series, with both games going to overtime thus far. When you think you’re out of his range, he’s able to get a puck and when he gets the puck he’s going to do some pretty good things. “There’s teams that are not in the playoffs that are very, very good that some of them were expected to be Stanley Cup finalists and they’re not there”. “Now I feel really good, so I can help the team”.
Babcock’s imprints are all over this lightning-quick turnaround. The biggest area of improvement is in the young talent the team have developed.
Babcock wasn’t always enamoured by those three players together.
“If you had to point to one thing that’s letting the team down … what’s the one thing that’s killing this team?” asked host Eric Bickel. How long before the team starts to second-guess what it’s doing? That’s been the key to the success of the line throughout the year, and shows why Babcock continues to have such confidence in it.
Remaining quiet to that point following a pointless playoff debut in Game 1 was Auston Matthews.
For the Capitals, look for them to come out aggressive.
Instead, the Leafs persevered. “They’re used to it so it doesn’t faze them and you can see that when they’re out there playing”.
William Nylander, Connor Brown and Zach Hyman also have not yet found the scoreboard.
While the 31-year-old Bozak and a handful of veterans – including Rielly, Leo Komarov and Kadri – played well, it was again the performance of the youngsters that shone brightest. Van Riemsdyk got it with two and a half minutes to go in the first, the beneficiary of some strong puck work by Gardiner.
“He’ll get you from behind”, Trotz said.
The belief in that Leafs dressing room was unmistakable Monday night. Zaitsev missed the first two games with a suspected concussion, but came back in for Roman Polak after a season ending ankle injury in Game 2. We know what it’s like to play on the road in the playoffs. “It’s who wants it more”.
Bobby Ryan scored on a tip-in on a power play 5:43 into overtime, and the Ottawa Senators recovered after giving up a three-goal lead to beat the Boston Bruins 4-3 to take a 2-1 lead in the first-round series. Each of those three scored in Game 3, but each time the Capitals built up a lead and got momentum, the Leafs rallied back.
Pressure has been a topic with the Capitals due to their recent playoff failures.
“He’s been a real good player for us all year”, Leafs coach Mike Babcock said.
“Just forget it and move forward”, said captain Alex Ovechkin. “Obviously, now that we have Boyle, we’re a much deeper team”. We’ve just got to play a little more detailed.
Zaitsev wasn’t sure how he’d fare in his first playoff game, especially off an injury. “If we get the lead, we have to manage the puck and manage the game and be more simple out there”.