Zaitsev to return for Leafs in Game 3

"So that hasn't changed".

Dogged forechecking from Zach Hyman and Matthews created William Nylander's tying goal in the waning moments of the second period, and the third was all Toronto, who came at the Caps in waves. Both goalies have been exceptional but Toronto's Frederik Andersen has been unstoppable and certainly performing as the Leafs management team hoped he would when they traded for him last June. Mikael Backlund found the back of the net just before the end of the first period, and Sean Monahan scored his second of the series mid-way through period two to knot things up at two. While the 31-year-old Bozak and a handful of veterans showed well, including Rielly, Leo Komarov and Nazem Kadri (two points), it was again the performance of youth that shone brightest.

They had played well in the previous two games, but were held pointless on the scoresheet.

"All those guys have probably had a ton of pressure on them their whole lives", Bozak said.

Meanwhile, the Leafs have dictated the pace of play against Washington and their ability to constantly win puck battles by using their foot speed has been a tremendous asset.

Here's some morning reading to get you through the long, agonizing wait until game time.

Polak visited with the group ahead of Game 3.

After a good few minutes where the Leafs controlled the play but couldn't beat Braden Holtby, Washington took advantage of a failure to clear by the home team and Backstrom fed Ovechkin who ripped the one-timer past Andersen to double the lead on the Capitals second shot of the game less than five minutes in. While the team scored 250 goals on the year, they also allowed 234 against, good for 2.85 goals against per game and 22nd in the National Hockey League. I think you gain respect for yourself and the process and you start believing that maybe you can do this.

Coming into this series all we heard about was "Caps in three!", "It's a learning experience for the Leafs", "Just happy to be here".

Mike Babcock doesn't think fatigue will be an issue as the series continues. "He has a lot of tools", Washington defenceman Matt Niskanen said.

"You just want to be with your teammates and celebrate", Bozak said. So everything is magnified, that's all.

Count Capitals centre Evgeny Kuznetsov as a fan of Auston Matthews.

"I thought we gained confidence in game one, because should we could play, and game two was a big confidence booster for us", he continued.

The chippiness began right off the opening faceoff, as Alex Ovechkin and Nikita Zaitsev, who was making his playoff debut after missing the first two games of the series with a concussion, exchanged a few crosschecks nearly as soon as the puck was dropped.

And though Bozak spoke of the pressure the Leafs put on themselves, all the heat heading into Game 4 on Wednesday in Toronto is on the Capitals.

Then Brassard got on the board, slipping a slap shot by Rask for his second goal in two games. Toronto is so well-coached as far as puck support that Washington can't get it stopped in the offensive zone - Toronto exits too quickly.

Leafs defenceman Nikita Zaitsev is a good bet to make his series debut after sitting out the first two games with a suspected concussion.

During the regular season, the Maple Leafs were the second-most successful team when it came to converting their power plays.

The Maple Leafs carried over a power play from regulation and wasted no time in overtime to find the victor as Tyler Bozak tipped Nazem Kadri's shot to give Toronto the 2-1 series lead.

Ryan got free in the zone, tapping it in on assists by Kyle Turris and Erik Karlsson. Rinne finished with 34 saves.

The Maple Leafs first home playoff game of their much-hyped second century belonged to the kids. Noel Acciari, David Backes and David Pastrnak answered for the Bruins in their second straight three-goal second period. He stopped the initial shot, but Matthews hung with it and batted the rebound out of mid-air to cut the deficit to 2-1.

Predators 3, Blackhawks 2 • Nashville scored twice in the third period to send the game to overtime, then got a goal from Kevin Fiala at 16:44 of the extra period to take a 3-0 lead on visiting Chicago.

That the Capitals entered the third period tied was disappointing after their first period checked off all the necessary boxes.

  • Julie Sanders