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Leafs vs. Caps Game 3 Recap: Toronto Triumphs In Overtime After Wild Game

This was an absolutely bonkers game and the Leafs won it 4-3.

Las Vegas Strip Exteriors Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

The Washington Capitals are in town for Game 3 of their first round series against our Toronto Maple Leafs. For the first time, I am attempting a timestamp-style recap. I apologize for the timestamps, which will all be entirely wrong.

First Period

  • [20:00] Nikita Zaitsev is back in action, and starting the game paired with Jake Gardiner. Those two and the Nazem Kadri line are staring down the famous Alex Ovechkin-Nick Backstrom-T.J. Oshie unit for Washington. In other news, Caps defenceman Nate Schmidt is in replacing Karl Alzner.
  • [19:40] Zaitsev and Ovechkin sparring early, very physical.
  • [19:20] Kuznetsov’s line causing trouble in the Leafs zone, but they don’t get a quality shot.
  • [18:50] The Leafs make their first serious trip into the opposing zone; as so often, it’s a chip and chase for the Matthews line retrieved by Zach Hyman.
  • [18:27] Coincidental penalties to Justin Williams and Morgan Rielly. Williams for the trip, Rielly for the drive. So we’re going to 4-on4.
  • [17:50] Tyler Bozak fires a rolling puck that Braden Holtby has some uncertainty over, but corrals.
  • [17:17] Washington goal. New entry to the lineup Nate Schmidt centres the puck from the corner on a rush, and Nick Backstrom fires the puck in past Freddie Andersen. Questionable defensive work from Zaitsev and JVR to leave Backstrom untouched, combined with the Caps making quality use of the extra space 4-on-4. 1-0 Capitals.
  • [16:25] Decent work by the Matthews line and William Nylander in particular to generate a shot. Holtby up to the task.
  • [15:51] Matt Martin nearly gets a shot at an open net off a blocked Braden Holtby clear, but Holtby recovers in time. Good work from the fourth line early.
  • [15:11] Washington goal #2. A very aggressive Washington forecheck loosens up the puck for Oshie; Oshie throws to Backstrom, who sets up the classic Ovechkin one-timer. This was the first time I’ve really thought the Kadri line was just fallen too far short of the task of defending the Ovi line, and each of the three Cap forwards showed talents to great effect. 2-0 Caps.
  • [12:45] Backstrom unit threatening again with Ovi. Ovechkin is on, but Backstrom has stood out as the best player on the ice, key on both goals and dangerous as hell.
  • [11:15] Caps are energized, which his both the cause of and effect of that quick early lead. Leafs are still getting some shots, and they’re not out of this yet, but they could lose this one very quickly.
  • [9:00] No one’s going to remember it, but Jake Gardiner made an insane spinning knock-down and pass to send William Nylander away on a rush. Nylander and the fourth line are the impressive Leaf forwards thus far, others struggling.
  • [8:15] Andersen nearly gives up a blooper goal after giving the puck away to Tom Wilson, but recovers in time.
  • [8:03] The Caps are playing very physically and the crowd is vocally upset that the Leafs have yet to have a powerplay. At the same time, the Caps are just outplaying the Leafs for the moment. Adversity.
  • [6:45] Andre Burakovsky and co. have a good o-zone shift.
  • [6:03] Kadri throws two thunderous hits on Brooks Orpik, and the crowd is excited for the first time since the goals. Hold that thought...
  • [5:48] Leafs goal! Auston Matthews charges in and takes a shot that deflects off Nate Schmidt, then dribbles in towards the net. Matthews follows up his own shot and fires it in past Holtby. 2-1 Caps.
  • [5:48] The Leafs have scored a home playoff goal for the first time since 2013, and hoo baby.
  • [5:05] JVR’s fires a mid-air pass that Mitch Marner narrowly misses with a low baseball swing.
  • [4:33] Bozak’s line at it again; Marner hits Bozak with a pass on a two-on-one, but Bozak can’t put either of two shots past Holtby. Leafs are clearly revved up again, and the Caps ice the puck to stop play.
  • [3:44] Kadri is having a violent night at the opera, both throwing and receiving very heavy checks. I wish his line were succeeding more defensively.
  • [2:31] Andersen makes a tremendous glove save off a one-timer from Dimitri Orlov (set up by Justin Williams.) If it’s Ovechkin I’m not sure that’s savable, but on the other hand, what a glove.
  • [1:30] A nightmare shift for the Kadri line mercifully ends when a Connor Brown shot block sends the puck out. The Backstrom line has had extended heavy pressure on the Leafs
  • [0:26] Consecutive quality offensive shifts for the Bozak and Matthews lines. The Leafs’ offence is clearly up and running, but their defence (not solid at the best of times) is struggling—and by defence I particularly mean the Kadri line and Nikita Zaitsev.
  • [0:00] Well, it was an agonizing early first, but the Leafs got their mojo back as things went on. By the end of it, the Leafs’ offence was operating at near-max, led by a phenomenal effort from William Nylander. On the defensive end, unfortunately, Zaitsev had a ghastly period, bleeding attempts, blowing a bad coverage on the first goal against and having the second go past him. Don Cherry savaged him in the intermission, which is normally just a sign that a player is European, but it was a tough 20. Still, the Caps came out at max cap-acity (sorry) and the Leafs responded. Not bad.

Second Period

  • [20:00] Babs is gonna dance with the one that bring him, so to speak; Kadri is going to keep right on going in the matchup against the Backstrom line. Not that you’d expect any different.
  • [19:00] Matthews line getting to the Caps zone, but the first couple of shots are low percentage before Matthews gets a good one through traffic. Holtby save.
  • [18:05] Lars Eller and Andre Burakovsky continue to threaten with high-pressure heavy shifts, working well in the corners. They don’t get a super dangerous chance this time though.
  • [16:35] Tom Wilson lands on Martin Marincin’s ankle. Marmar looks hurt but stays in.
  • [15:13] Andersen with a very solid save on an Oshie-to-Ovechkin two-on-one. Kadri backchecks and does some nice work assisting, obstructing Ovi.
  • [15:00] Nylander to Matthews shot and tip goes just wide.
  • [14:21] Washington goal. Marcus Johansson fires a shot, which Andersen kicks out to the side. Evgeni Kuznetsov picks the rebound and fires it short side immediately from a very sharp angle. I hate to pick on Andersen, without whom this game would be over, but it’s not great rebound control by Freddie, on what shouldn’t have been that dangerous a play. 3-1 Capitals.
  • [13:08] Matt Hunwick, trying to recover from an awkward bounce off an Andersen clear, takes a hooking penalty, and the Caps have the first powerplay of the night. This could be bad.
  • [13:08] Matt Martin gets caught roughing after the play, and takes an extra two minutes. Now it’s a two-minute 5-on-3. This could be very bad.
  • [11:52] Shattenkirk misses a wide-open net. Dumb luck on our part, after some heroic penalty-killing from Komarov, Rielly and Marincin. You can’t survive a 5-on-3 without a bit of luck, especially against the Caps.
  • [11:08] The Leafs survive! Marner nearly has a breakaway coming out of the box, but Braden Holtby makes a kamikaze rush to run out and pokecheck it away.
  • [10:12] The Leafs botch a change and take a too many men penalty, just after a nice comeback shift post 5-on-3. Shit.
  • [8:22] Andersen with a superb save on Ovechkin’s patented one-timer, and it’s the last chance of the powerplay. Somehow the Leafs have survived the penalty parade, this time.
  • [6:55] Martin Marincin, who has heretofore had a solid night, makes a deeply unfortunate giveaway up the middle of the ice, but the Leafs survive.
  • [6:20] The Leafs are absolutely bleeding shots right now.
  • [4:47] Leafs goal! Kadri showing excellent coverage for Morgan Rielly making aggressive pinches (as per standard Leaf procedure.) Kadri fires a point shot, that gets deflected off an amalgamated hug of Connor Brown and Caps defender Brooks Orpik. While Kadri was credited with the goal, both he and Brown did quality work. It’s a one-goal game again. 3-2 Capitals.
  • [2:45] Toronto suffers a “heavy shift against”, in which Kuznetsov and Orlov both scare the daylights out of me. I’ve already said this, but it continues to be true: Leaf offence good, Leaf defence hideous. This is pretty much always true for Toronto, it’s just a matter of degree.
  • [1:19] Andersen with just a fantastic save on Kuznetsov, pushing right off to cover the entire lower portion of the net so that Kuznetsov can’t step around him.
  • [0:29] This was a lovely three-man play by the Leafs top line. Hyman with a hugely heavy forecheck on Brooks Orpik to knock the puck loose after a chip and chase. Hyman throws the puck to Auston Matthews, who makes just a lovely pass to William Nylander in the slot. Nylander shot; Holtby save; Nylander coolly collects his own rebound and pots it. 3-3 tie game!
  • [0:00] This was the most infuriating, terrifying, resilient, electric, goddamn 2016-17 Leafiest period of the year. They were a nightmare in their own zone, except every now and then a defender or Andersen made some heroic play to hang on for dear life. Everything happened all of the time, and then, suddenly, there were incredible flashes of offensive skill, and, holy shit, we’re going tied into the third. Whatever happens, you have to a) recognize the Leafs have flaws, and b) give them one hell of a lot of credit.

Third Period

  • [20:00] This is the most tense I have been in quite some time.
  • [19:07] Matthews with a point-blank one-timer from a terrible angle. Holtby save.
  • [18:45] Nylander doing more magic, but loses the puck on the fresh ice. Still, excellent starting shift from HMN.
  • [17:30] Bad giveaway from Zaitsev. Hard not to feel like he’s come back too soon, but maybe it’s nothing to do with injury.
  • [16:43] Marner through a pretty hard hit, proving ionce again that speed as well as mass matters in physics.
  • [16:26] Kevin Shattenkirk takes a puck over glass penalty. Leafs to their first powerplay of the night.
  • [14:58] Not much going on in the early parts of the power play. The first unit did have one solid chance that ended with Connor Brown missing the far corner, but the second unit has struggled to get set up and has now iced the puck on the PP. :(
  • [14:26] They actually made a go of it in the final thirty seconds, but no goal. Caps get the kill.
  • [14:20] William Nylander, who has been flying, flies too close to the sun; he makes a pass that Ovechkin anticipates and turns up ice, and 90 seconds of Washington siege ensues, though they don’t produce a shot on goal. Many anxious moments before the Leafs turn the puck up ice.
  • [12:00] That time is an estimate, because there was a solid four minutes of end to end action. The Leafs had the best of it, including some lovely work by Marner and a s slick pass through the slot by Zach Hyman.
  • [10:06] Tom Wilson takes an interference penalty, and the Leafs are back on the powerplay.
  • [8:06] This was an extremely dangerous powerplay that just doesn’t quite score, between a very big save from Holtby and a narrow miss from Auston Matthews. But no goal.
  • [6:23] A breather in what has been a relentless third period. The Caps only got their first shot on goal of the period in the last ten seconds, though it hasn’t felt like the play was nearly that lopsided at even strength. This is a max-adrenaline game.
  • [5:50] Martin Marincin is not on the bench, because all of our defencemen are cursed. He looked like his ankle might be hurt earlier, but went on to play a bunch in the second, but now he’s gone. Not sure if something else happened.
  • [4:47] Mitch Marner gets a tip on a Jake Gardiner point shot, but it goes wide. An excellent offensive shift from the Bozak line ensues, with many close calls, but when it ends, the Caps charge back up.
  • [4:05] Kuznetsov hits a post. Jesus.
  • [2:32] Tom Wilson and Zach Hyman take coincidental roughing penalties after a shoving match. 4-on-4 hockey. God help me.
  • [2:00] Backstrom is a phenomenal player. I’ve thought this virtually every time I’ve watched the Capitals for the past decade, and I’m thinking it now.
  • [0:15] Lars Eller takes a high-sticking penalty on Zach Hyman. Oh man. Nothing happens with the first fifteen seconds.
  • [0:00] The Leafs had a ton of chances this period, and a heavy advantage in CF%; the Capitals had a few very dangerous stretches. Either team could have scored a winner. Neither did. So for the third time in three games, we’re going to overtime in this series.


  • [20:00] The Leafs have a slightly truncated powerplay to start the extra period. I am losing my mind.
  • [18:23] Okay, the Leafs were set up in the latter stages of their power play after a Mitch Marner entry. Bozak behind the net to Kadri; Kadri back to Rielly at the point; Rielly back to Kadri; Kadri fires a hard pass into the shot, and Tyler Bozak tips it past Braden Holtby. 4-3 final. Leafs win and take a 2-1 series lead.
  • [18:23] This is the craziest game I can remember and the Leafs won it in heroic goddamn fashion, and there’s nothing else to say. Go. Leafs. Go.