As the Leafs returned home from their trip to the US capitol, their series with the Washington Capitals (Why is it spelled differently?) was knotted at 1-1. Would they stand up to the Caps and prove all that they’re not afraid to take a stand, or would they just stand there and watch the series burn out of their control.
“This team’s a choke artist, they’ll catch a bad one, they’re better off shooting themselves with Papa Nick’s wrister” Yeah, I’m paraphrasing from the movie 8 Mile there, but that’s probably close to what the Caps were thinking after they scored on their first two shots tonight, Nate Schmidt feeding Nicklas Backstrom who fired a shot that alluded Freddie Andersen and gave Washington a 1-0 lead, followed by Alex Ovechkin ripping a shot from the Ovi spot past Andersen to make it 2-0. The Leafs looked a little tentative, until Nazem Kadri steamrolled Brooks Orpik not once, but twice. That seemed to wake up the boys in blue, and Auston Matthews drove through the Caps D like “Guess who’s back, back again, Papi’s back, tell a friend” as he charged to the net a cut the Washington lead to one as he potted his own rebound, to send the Leafs to the locker room down 2-1.
“Will the real Freddie Andersen please stand up, I repeat, will the real Freddie Andersen please stand up, we’re gonna have a problem here.” That’s probably what Leafs fans were thinking when Evgeny Kuznetsov scored off a rebound from a bad angle to restore the Caps two goal lead at 3-1. Andersen has been spectacular at times, and it could be argued that he’s the reason that the series is tied at one coming into this game, but it could also be argued that he’s part of the reason that it wasn’t 2-0 Leafs coming into this game as he let in a couple of less than stellar goals in game one, including Tom Wilson’s game winner. It seems Freddie is either unbelieveable, or shaky, and early on tonight he was a bit shaky. The Leafs would fight back however as they’d continue to match the Caps physicality and aggressiveness, killing off a 5-on-3, and another power play, keeping the Caps in check, until Nazem Kadri scored to cut the lead to 3-2. They’d keep coming until Zach Hyman won a battle behind the net, got the puck to Auston Matthews, who fed William Nylander. Nylander’s first attempt would be stopped by Braden Holtby, but Nylander calmly gathered in his own rebound and stepped to the right to slide the puck into a wide open cage tying the game 3-3 with 39 seconds left in the period.
“You know technically, we’re not even supposed to be here right now, so screw it, might as well make the most of it.” The Leafs certainly are the Cinderella Men of this year’s NHL season and they threw caution to the wind in the third period as they attacked the Caps with abandon, with so many chances to take the lead. Tyler Bozak threw a shot on net, Nazem Kadri couldn’t bat the puck into an open cage. Auston Matthews fanned on a shot from the slot. William Nylander fired on Holtby and Matthews didn’t see the rebound sliding past him with the gaping net until it was too late to put it home, so this one would go to overtime, for the third straight game. One bonus for the Leafs was that they’d start OT with a 1:45 power play as Lars Eller high sticked Zach Hyman with 15 seconds left in regulation.
“If you had one shot, one opportunity, to seize everything you’d ever wanted, would you capture it, or just let it slip?” The Leafs probably didn’t have to worry about mom’s spaghetti on their sweaters as OT started, but they did seem a little nervous, as the majority of their power play floundered, failing to produce many chances, until the Nazem Kadri threw a shot from the wall that Tyler Bozak was able to tip home to win it. The Leafs will look to take a 3-1 stranglehold on the series on Thursday night at home.
SCORING BY PERIOD
Washington Goal 2:43 N. Backstrom (2) assisted by N. Schmidt and T. Oshie
Washington Goal 4:49 A. Ovechkin (2) assisted by N. Backstrom and T. Oshie
Toronto Goal 14:08 A. Matthews (1) assisted by M. Rielly
Washington Goal 5:39 E. Kuznetsov (1) assisted by M. Johansson and J. Williams
Toronto Goal 15:13 N. Kadri (1) assisted by L. Komarov
Toronto Goal 19:20 W. Nylander (1) assisted by A. Matthews and Z. Hyman
Toronto Goal 1:37 T. Bozak (1) (power play) assisted by N. Kadri and M. Rielly
SHOTS BY PERIOD