Marcus Johansson leads Caps past gritty Maple Leafs

"That's why it's just a step".

"They've got something to be very very excited (about) and I'll tell you, they pushed us and they hardened us in this series", said Capitals head coach Barry Trotz.

"He's got to dig in", said Babcock. Pittsburgh has won their last two playoff meetings with the Capitals, going on to win the cup both times. We get along well and we talk to each other.

Auston Matthews, putting an exclamation mark on a great year that surely will net him the Calder Trophy, scored for the fourth consecutive game, giving the Leafs a 1-0 lead at 7:45 of the third period. Only the first round of the 2012 playoffs had more one-goal games at 32 of 48. "I thought that was my problem".

Last night, I had a chance to be right in the thick of the craziness at Maple Leafs Square for the crucial Game 6 between the Buds and the Washington Capitals. In fact, he's producing at a slightly better rate than he did in the regular season.

If wary of simply expecting to get into the playoffs next year, players welcome rising expectations.

The Toronto Maple Leafs forward and Scottsdale, Arizona native will pass on the annual global competition after an exhausting rookie campaign.

For that to happen, he needs to play more.

The Capitals have had a tough time wrapping up game 6's. This season he developed even further, setting career highs in goals (32) and points (61) and driving the Capitals bonkers in the first round, including crushing Ovechkin with a controversial hip check in Game 5. They are giving up way too much zone time - the result of weak clearing attempts, turnovers and losing battles on the boards - and they have relied way too much on Marc-Andre Fleury to bail them out. "It's a lot tighter, there's less opportunities". "It's going to get more hard". He's had a few assists since then. "I think for us, the future is definitely bright". By becoming more mature, I can be one of those players, one of those leaders that Don Cherry kisses and that you want to be in a foxhole with.

"We've still got a ways to go", said Toronto forward Nazem Kadri.

It's not just Marner who's finding it more hard to score.

"The reality is it's a great year for our team. That's what keeps you going", Lamoriello said. "Consistency on the special teams has been huge".

"We want to be right here, in overtime, in Game 7", Babcock said. He's a creative player whose strength is his patience with the puck. Andersen was forced to leave two starts late in the regular season after taking hits to the head, but he remained in the game.

This won't be easy for the Capitals, as they have to win on the road against a Toronto team that they haven't been able to beat by more than a goal in this series. They have cut out the fancy passes and gone back to no-frills hockey. For us, it is just a lot of positivity, but we understand we're not satisfied and we're not here to get complacent. "For sure, the pace has picked up".

"I didn't think the power play was bad until last game", Babcock said Saturday.

It's something that Babcock is confident that Marner will eventually figure it out. Fellow rookie winger William Nylander also amassed 61 points (including 22 goals) and was twice named National Hockey League rookie-of-the-month (Marner and Matthews also received rookie-of-the-month nods once this season).

And for not the first time, a couple of Caps fans celebrated a victory in the middle of Maple Leaf Square, like Bloods wading into a party on Crip turf.

  • Leroy Wright