Lightning wins, waits, watches to see if playoffs are possible

Minutes after their regular season ended on Sunday night, the Leafs, who had a full day off on Monday, started to try to convince themselves that the old adage about the playoffs was true.

While Washington was the league's best regular season team past year and a favorite to contend for the Stanley Cup again this season, the Maple Leafs' quick ascension has been a surprise.

Sullivan was well-aware of the playoff implications for the Leafs - as well as the Lightning and Islanders - but said "our priority is first and foremost to the Penguins and certainly we're trying to make the right decisions that we think is best for our hockey team in the short-term and the long-term".

Matthews became only the fourth rookie under 20 in National Hockey League history to score 40 goals, with his 40th into an empty net sealing the Leafs' wild, playoff-clinching win over Pittsburgh.

Matthews led the National Hockey League in scoring 14 game-opening goals, also equalling Dave Andreychuk's franchise record.

IN THE BOOKS: The Senators' 98 points was the second most they've had since accumulating 105 en route to the Stanley Cup final in 2007. Now, rookies Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander have them back to the postseason.

The Leafs gradually took control of the first period and by the time it was done, had limited the Penguins to just seven shot attempts (including four shots on goal) while registering 23 of their own (with nine shots on goal).

"I think the city's probably buzzing", Brown said.

It's expected the first two games of the Ottawa series would be on Wednesday and Saturday, while Games 1 and 2 versus Washington would be Thursday and Saturday. "So they came out hard and got a couple of good breaks and it is what it is". Columbus is locked into a first round series with the defending champs from Pittsburgh and while this game has no bearing on the playoffs for the Jackets you can bet they'd love to get away from this losing atmosphere before the second season begins.

"I am sure they're going to be ready to play", Columbus coach John Tortorella said of his team.

You knew it wasn't going to be easy, right?

A woozy Andersen was on the ice for several minutes and when he eventually got up to go to the Leafs dressing room, did so slowly. Just like that, Toronto was in the lead, exactly where they need to be. Toronto built a 2-0 lead early in the second period, but the Blue Jackets stormed back and ripped off three unanswered goals to take a 3-2 lead. The Washington Capitals, Ottawa Senators and Boston Bruins have clinched spots and await matchups. The Blues will face the Wild, who won 3-1 on Saturday to gain home ice, in the first round. If you're a better team, you're pushing your shoulders back at this time of year, you want to be finishing strong.

Marc-Andre Fleury started in goal for the Penguins but dropped to 7-1-2 in his last 10 decisions at Toronto, 12-4-2 in his last 18 decisions overall against the Leafs.

Unfortunately for the Maple Leafs, the cruel twists continued.

"You have nerves when you win the Presidents' Trophy and you're playing a real good team in the first round", Babcock said. "That's when it's a totally different program though".

Just where the Toronto Maple Leafs fit on the spectrum of wishful thinking and taking care of business is unknown.

Tortorella, meanwhile, texted Leafs goalie Curtis McElhinney with congratulations on Saturday night after McElhinney relieved an injured Frederik Andersen against Pittsburgh and helped lead the Leafs to a victory that clinched a playoff spot.

  • Julie Sanders