Maple Leafs drop finale, will face Capitals in first round

Now they need two points over the final two games - they play Columbus on Sunday - to get in.

In recent years, the Penguins were typically the more desperate team, while the Maple Leafs were mere hours away from honing their golf games.

Kapanen (PIT's 2014 first round pick traded to Toronto in the Kessel deal) converted a Matt Hunwick pass for his first National Hockey League goal with just over five minutes left in regulation to tie the game, Brown deflected Jake Gardiner's point shot past goalie Marc-Andre Fleury for his 20th of the season to give the Leafs the lead.

The Bolts broke open a scoreless game in the second period after the Leafs power play went 0-for-3. If the Isles tie the Leafs on points and ROWs, they hold the season head-to-head tiebreaker.

In many ways, Toronto has been an underdog all season, and their first-round series will be no different. However, with the Toronto Maple Leafs' 3-2 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Caps will be facing the Leafs instead.

Andersen left Saturday's game against the Penguins in the second period due to a head injury.

It's Cup or bust for the Caps this year, expectations nearly entirely at odds with the young Leafs, who are simply trying to soak up playoff experience for future Cup runs. Their rookies have been a big part of their team but not by fluke. Matthews slowly made his way to the bench taking deep breaths, with the entire ACC in a similar state.

"You knew he had the talent", Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said, "But sometimes it's just a matter of time before it translates to the National Hockey League and obviously he's wasted no time". Auston Matthews is the most notable, setting various franchise records in his first season.

The Maple Leafs struck back 29 seconds later when van Riemsdyk potted his 27th goal of the season from the high slot.

"You've got to beat the best at some point", Gardiner concluded of the matchup, "so might as well do it in the first round".

It nearly was a turning point for the Maple Leafs, but Curtis McElhinney stopped 12 of 14 shots faced in relief. Another big save came on Oliver Bjorkstrand.

The lone Leaf to look comfortable in the opener was van Riemsdyk, who'd been to the Stanley Cup final with Philadelphia previously. It's likely Andersen is going through the NHL's concussion protocol. Cam Atkinson waited for the Leafs to back in on McElhinney before firing the puck to the top corner. We're one game ahead of schedule.

Having played five games in the last seven days, these next three days off will help the Leafs a lot.

"If I'm really honest, maybe not", said Komarov. "The closer we get, the bigger chance we have, so you kind of start thinking, 'Maybe, we've got a chance to get in here'".

This is what the Maple Leafs are dealing with: a team of destiny.

"They were playing for a playoff spot and they played like it", Fleury said. I don't think there is over-structure on them. I don't think there is over-structure on them.

It's the type of play Penguins coach Mike Sullivan has been trying to coax out of Kessel for weeks: Don't think, just shoot.

Even Komarov, one of the longer-serving Leafs, didn't expect his team to leap back into the post-season so soon - the Leafs clinching their first such berth in four years and second since 2004 with a 5-3 win over the Penguins Saturday night.

The Leafs claimed McElhinney off waivers from Columbus on January 10.

"I was thrilled for him", Tortorella said. "I kicked him around in our place in not playing him much and putting him in spots when he had not played for months and he was just a great pro".


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