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Toronto Maple Leafs win the Easter Epic in Washington 4-3

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Another game in Washington and this time Kasperi Kapanen silences the Capitals in a double OT thriller.

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Toronto Maple Leafs at Washington Capitals Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Period One

The Leafs got off to a not-so-auspicious start in this one, with Jake Gardiner called for cross-checking Tom Wilson within the first minute. Washington looks dangerous right out of the gate, although they don’t score on the power play, mostly thanks to Freddie Andersen.

Shortly thereafter, Justin Williams high-sticks Matt Hunwick along the boards, and the Leafs go on what was only a power play in the most technical of senses. It’s a mess, during which the Leafs manage exactly zero shots.

Nicklas Backstrom takes a shot in close off an Ovechkin pass and misses. After a scramble in front, with Ovechkin trying to put it in, he and Leo Komarov receive offsetting minors—Komarov for holding, Ovechkin for embellishment.

The Leafs then spend a solid chunk of four-on-four pinned in their own zone. Matthews blocks a shot and is in visible discomfort for a bit, which did not in any way add to our collective stress.

One of the Leafs’ first solid chances of the game comes after James van Riemsdyk intercepts a Capitals pass in the neutral zone. Nazem Kadri takes a shot, and then JvR gets a good chance off the rebound, but Holtby saves it.

The puck immediately goes the other way, and Andersen has to make a save on Lars Eller in close. Shortly thereafter, Karl Alzner flips the puck high out of the Capitals’ zone and springs Brett Connolly for a breakaway, Andersen saves it. The Caps are flying, and the Leafs are only starting to get their feet under them.

Nylander—who’s had a great period so far—slings a pass to Matthews out of the slot, ends up in Matthews’ skates and he can’t put it in the empty net.

The Leafs’ second power play is a huge improvement, with things like zone time and puck movement and real live scoring chances! It’s not without scary moments, including a shorthanded rush, shut down by some nice defensive play by Gardiner.

Speaking of Gardiner—he carries it in with speed, uses a spin move to play keep-away, and carries it into the slot. He loses the puck, but none of the Capitals can corral it. The puck ends up on the stick of JvR, who wires it right over Holtby’s glove. 1-0 Leafs.

Williams takes his second penalty of the game with about a minute left in the period, an interference call for a hit at the Leafs’ blue line. The Leafs spent the rest of the period on the power play.

Second Period

Leafs start the period with a minute of power play time, but can’t make anything happen, although their power play continues to look better.

Komarov forces a turnover off Kevin Shattenkirk against the half boards in the Capitals’ zone, Kadri gets a nice chance and then collects his own rebound to send it up for a shot from Gardiner

The Leafs end up hemmed into their own zone for too long, and Marincin takes a slashing penalty. Capitals go on the power play.

It doesn’t take long for them to convert. The Leafs are in a scramble to find the puck to clear, Hyman drifts down but nobody’s covering Ovechkin. Oshie finds him with a pass, right in his favorite spot on the right faceoff circle, and Ovechkin does what he does best. 1-1 Caps.

In a lovely, if scoreless, play, Zach Hyman tips the puck to Matthews, who sends it through Alzner’s skates to Nylander, who slides right around Alzner like it’s no trouble at all. Nylander can’t quite tuck the puck around Holtby’s left pad, but it’s a near thing.

It leads to a bit of a scrum, and Hyman gets to make some new friends in red jerseys. That happens a couple times tonight.

A Kapanen hit on Orpik forces a turnover behind Holtby’s cage, and the fourth line pins the Caps in their zone for a good minute. So far tonight, they’ve looked solid.

The Capitals go on the power play again—Connor Carrick high-sticks a falling Daniel Winnik in front of the net.

I love that aggressive forecheck by Hyman on the penalty kill.

Burakovsky breezes into the zone, tries a pass through the center, and a hard point shot from Carlson, might’ve gone off Polak at the front of the net.

They really looked good until there was about ten seconds left.

In a scary moment, Roman Polak goes down after a hit by Orpik, but lands badly with his leg folded under him. He’s in a lot of visible pain, and is taken off the ice without putting any weight on it.

A Gorgeous spinning backhand goal from Kappy after a good fourth line shift lifted everyone’s spirits a few seconds later. Boyle carries it in, Martin feeds it to Kapanen in the slot, who digs it out of his own feet and puts it past Holtby. Kapanen shows tremendously quick hands on that goal.

It’s reviewed for offside, and the on-ice call stands, which is good because otherwise I might have broken a few things.

Nazem Kadri gets called for a retaliatory crosscheck on TJ Oshie in front of the net, and the Leafs go on the penalty kill. Oshie cross-checked him first, but still, not the brightest, Naz.

Good kill by the Leafs! Man, it’s nice to say that this game!

Bozak is tripped up by Dmitry Orlov with 31.2 seconds left, Leafs power play to end the period.

MORGAN RIELLY POWERPLAY GOAL! Point shot from the blue line, right over Holtby’s glove—Holtby doesn’t see it until it’s in the net

Third Period

Kapanen uses his speed to carry in, and dishes a nice pass to Boyle, who can’t finish.

Jake Gardiner has been at his best tonight—he steals the puck in the neutral zone and sends it back into the Caps’ zone with the Matthews line, until Holtby snares a Nylander shot.

Komarov forces another turnover, this time stealing the puck from Ovechkin in the Leafs’ zone.

Andersen (!) sends a gorgeous pass up to Auston Matthews, who has a clear shot and fans on it. Hyman does get a shot off, and misses the net.

Carrick had taken up some of Polak’s shifts at first, but he gave way to Marincin and now it’s a four defender game, with Gardiner, Rielly and Hunwick carrying the big weight.

The Leafs end up hemmed in their own zone for what felt like an eternity (really, about a minute or so, but again, it felt like an eternity), and Nicklas Backstrom eventually capitalizes on a rebound and pokes one past a flailing Gardiner and Andersen.

Overtime

Playoff overtime is scary. Especially down 1-0 in the series to the best team in the league. the Leafs need this game if they realistically want to win the series. As expected, the Capitals are dominating, with the Leafs being held together by Andersen and timely defensive plays.

The Capitals, who had taken it to the Leafs in the third period, start to lose ground to the younger Leafs’ legs.

But halfway thought the first overtime period, Boyle takes a tripping penalty on Kuznetsov, and ... oh boy. This could be the end. Boyle is steamed. The refs were letting them play during the overtime, but I get that call.

This power play is terrifying. Just the sheer star power of it is intimidating, but they fit together well. A cross-ice pass from Ovechkin to Johansson is just barely blocked by Hyman. More chances come, but Andersen stands tall, and my god, this is nerve-wracking.

The Leafs are basically sticking a man directly on Ovechkin, and trusting the rest to be a four-on-three. This Caps power play is like five different Catch-22s. But the Leafs are holding on, just barely.

Zach Hyman on the breakaway!!! He just didn’t have the legs to finish it off. You could see the exhaustion on his face. That was also really well played by John Carlson, who did well to not take a penalty. But anyways, Boyle is back on. Back to five-on-five.

More chances. More nervousness. I’m finding it hard to type. Playoff hockey, baby.

Andersen is playing marvelously—he just stoned Backstrom on a slot chance of a feed from Tom Wilson, and with 5 minutes left in the first OT, the Caps are continuing to press their advantage.

Seriously, I’m having a hard time recapping this! End-to-end action! The Leafs get a chance, the Caps get two right back. Both goalies are standing tall and playing really well.

A strong fourth line shift for the Leafs with about 4 minutes left slows it down. Great board work by them, spending the entire shift in the offensive zone. Not many shots, but it’s a fourth line shift. We take those.

Matthews’ line ices the puck, and will have to face a D-zone faceoff against the formidable Backstrom group. The Leafs have avoided this matchup as much as possible—lets hope it doesn’t burn them here.

Oh my god, how did he save that! Braden Holtby robs Connor Brown off a pass from Zach Hyman. But in the aftermath, Holtby hits Kadri, and gets penalized for it. Leafs with a huge, huge opportunity here to win the game. And yes, that was a total dive by Naz. I don’t care.

BOZIE NOOO! JVR finds him with an open net, but the puck hops over his stick.

Oh my god, how is Holtby saving these? Nylander had a shot available, but he couldn’t get it off fast enough, and Holtby moved across to save it.

Coming out of the box, Ovechkin gets a breakaway, but as he has all season, Andersen saves the day. What drama, and it looks like we’ll head into a second OT! Great job by Marner to put some pressure on Ovi. Oh my goodness—there’s nothing like playoff overtime, is there?

Second OT

I tell you what... the Leafs should be damn proud of their performance, win or lose here. The Caps have a slight territorial advantage, but given that they’re the better team, the healthier team, and the team at home, that was to be expected. The Leafs are working their asses off, and are making this a fight.

Alright, I’ll try to time-stamp it from here, but it’s playoff hockey, so no promises.

  • [20:00] Alright, OT beginning.
  • [19:20] After a rough Game 1 (and regular season), Martin Marincin has saved the Leafs bacon tonight, playing minutes that he would normally never have to.
  • [18:04] I can’t even imagine the exhaustion these players are feeling, on both sides. The game has visibly slowed.
  • [18:00] Rielly takes a point shot that very nearly takes a deflection and goes in. JVR fires the rebound high. Close for the Leafs, who have started 2OT well.
  • [16:32] Rielly then finds Connor Brown alone at the side of the net, but he misses short side.
  • [16:02] Words don’t describe the fear I feel when Backstrom’s line steps over the boards.
  • [14:44] The game is getting sloppy now. Hard to see it lasting longer than this OT period. But I’ve been wrong before.
  • [14:10] Boyle smartly dumps the puck in on Holtby, letting him dump it without an icing.
  • [14:10] Just drop the fucking puck, linesmen. No one cares about faceoff minutia.
  • [13:33] Basically all of the Caps’ offense is from their first line right now. But relying on two future HHOFers isn’t a bad plan.
  • [12:50] But I guess the same can be said of the Leafs with the Matthews line :P. Matthews gets a couple great chances to flash his great shot, but Holtby is up to the task.
  • [11:21] The Matthews line comes super close to ending it. Nylander walks in off the wall, and just barely misses from the slot. So close.
  • [10:12] The Kuznetsov line answers with a dominant shift of their own. But the Leafs hold on. I don’t know how.
  • [10:12] Rielly ices the puck. Ovi comes out. Butt-clenching time.
  • [9:42] Rielly ices the puck again. Still butt-clenching time.
  • [9:42] Having the Washington Metro close at midnight on a Saturday seems like a poor idea.
  • [9:30] Leafs survive, for now.
  • [8:56] Gardiner now up above 40 minutes of ice time. These guys are superhuman.
  • [8:10] Ugh, Holtby, fuck off. He’s crazy good.
  • [8:07] KAPANEN! Oh my god, what a game for him! I’ll never make fun of your moustache again! The Leafs tie the series, and now it’s series on. He’s making a reputation for scoring some big goals isn’t he! 4-3 Leafs, game over, seires tied!
  • [8:07] Phenomenal play by Martin and Boyle, as they took advantage of a Caps defender losing his stick, with Boyle firing a perfect blind pass to Kapanen from behind the net, who tucks it home. That trade is worth it now. What a play, what a game. Incredible by the Leafs.