The Washington Capitals were the consensus pick in their first round Stanley Cup playoffs matchup with the Toronto Maple Leafs. However, the young and high-flying Leafs’ roster has had other things to say about it. The series has seen all three games so far need time past regulation, resulting in some memorable overtime goals.
The Maple Leafs have silenced their critics, as well as the Capitals’ fans, by winning two of those games in extra time. With Game 4 set to begin tonight in downtown Toronto, the Maple Leafs have the surprising 2-1 series lead. Will tonight’s game also need overtime? You’ll have to watch to find out.
Let’s recap the series so far, highlighting each game-deciding tally.
Game 1 – Washington 3, Toronto 2 (OT)
The Capitals crowd was rocking and ready for their team’s quest to the Stanley Cup to begin. After all, they were just 16 wins away from seeing a parade in downtown D.C.
The Maple Leafs weren’t going quietly into the night, though. Leafs rookie Mitch Marner scored just 1:35 into the contest, diving to the ice to reach a loose rebound in the slot. The Leafs continued to disappoint the home crowd, as Toronto defender Jake Gardiner scored a little over eight minutes later. The Capitals were facing a 2-0 deficit before the first intermission of their first playoff game.
Luckily for the Capitals, though, Justin Williams proved his nickname of “Mr. Game Seven” doesn’t just pertain to the last game of the series. The former Los Angeles Kings winger tallied a power-play goal at 12:24 of the first period and then an even-strength goal at 16:00 of the second period. After facing an early, unprecedented deficit, the Capitals received a fresh start with 24 minutes remaining in regulation.
After there wasn’t any scoring in the final period, the first game of the 2017 playoffs to require extra time saw an unlikely source score the game winner at 5:15 of the first overtime.
Wilson’s first playoff overtime goal came off a bad angle that eluded goaltender Frederik Andersen. It capped off a tremendous comeback that, quite frankly, the Capitals needed in their first contest of the playoffs.
Game 2 – Toronto 4, Washington 3 (OT)
Unlike Game 1, Game 2 was a seesaw battle that saw both teams trade goals. It was Toronto that jumped on the board first, as veteran James van Riemsdyk scored at 17:34 of the first period to take a big lead into the first intermission.
The second period saw four separate goal scorers, as Alex Ovechkin and John Carlson scored for the Capitals and Kasperi Kapanen and Morgan Rielly lit the lamp for Toronto. Except for Kapanen’s tally, every goal in the period was scored on the power play.
With Toronto leading 3-2 midway through the third period, Washington center Nicklas Backstrom scored his first of the playoffs after the Maple Leafs were hemmed in their own zone for over a minute.
With the score tied at three goals apiece, the series again needed more time after regulation. Only this time, there were no goals scored in the first overtime as Toronto outshot Washington, 13-10.
As Game 1 produced an unlikely hero, Game 2’s decision ended up on the stick of a relatively unknown rising star.
Kapanen scored his second goal of the game and only his third overall goal in his 19th overall NHL contest (regular season and postseason). The play was set up by trade deadline-acquisition Brian Boyle, who made a Gretzky-like pass from behind the net.
Game 3 – Toronto 4, Washington 3 (OT)
With an obvious chip on their collective shoulder, the Capitals stormed out of the gates, despite the raucous Toronto home crowd. It was flurry after flurry of the Capitals offense bearing down, as the Washington stars created headaches for Andersen and the Leafs’ defense. Backstrom and Ovechkin both tallied their second goals of the postseason within the first five minutes of the contest as the favorite in the series finally looked to be taking a stranglehold. Despite this, the Maple Leafs received a massive goal from rookie-standout Auston Matthews, his first postseason goal, at 14:08. At the end of the high-octane first period, the Maple Leafs actually led in shots, 10-7.
However, it was another Capitals star that scored the next tally. Evgeny Kuznetsov scored his first of the playoffs at 5:39 of the second period to restore his team’s two-goal lead.
In the final five minutes of the second period, though, Leafs forwards Nazem Kadri and William Nylander both scored their firsts of the postseason, tying the game at three goals apiece. This made for yet another wild second period, as eight of the series’ 16 regulation goals came in the middle stanza.
Again, there was no scoring in the third period and the series headed to its fourth overtime period in three games.
It didn’t take long for the Leafs to strike. Toronto had a carry-over power play from the third period after Lars Eller took an ill-advised high-sticking penalty with just 16 seconds remaining in regulation. It was the longest-tenured Leaf on the roster who added one of the biggest overtime goals in recent Toronto memory.
Kadri’s pass-shot was deflected by Tyler Bozak in the slot and Toronto had its first series lead since 2013. You don’t need to look far to see how excited Leafs Nation was after this unbelievable moment.
Game 4 is set for tonight at 7:00 EST in Toronto. You won’t want to miss the next chapter in this highly contested series as more exciting moments, including some possible overtime goals, are extremely likely.
Stay tuned with the Everything Hockey blog for coverage throughout the playoffs, including previews and predictions for each round.
Feature photo courtesy NHL.com
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