Thursday, 21 September, 2017

Kapanen scores double OT winner as Leafs beat Capitals 4-3

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Nellie Chapman | 18 April, 2017, 02:41

Washington Capitals right wing Tom Wilson (43) celebrates his overtime goal with center Jay Beagle (83) against the Toronto Maple Leafs during Game 1 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup first-round playoff series in Washington, Thursday, April 13, 2017.

James van Riemsdyk opened the scoring late in the first to give Toronto the lead, Washington responded and took over the game in the middle frame with a pair of power play goals from Alex Ovechkin and John Carlson and things got worse later in the second, as veteran blueliner Roman Polak left the game after being hit by Caps defenseman Brooks Orpik near the Leafs bench. "They're a good team". The problem with that is you have to skate, and skate and skate. "You'll recognize the better play if it's there, but don't look for it and slow it down".

But the young Leafs, whose top three scorers are all under 21, have proven they belong in this series and maybe planted a seed of doubt in Washington, which was the overwhelming favorite. But based off the regular season results, when the Maple Leafs rookies have spent the last fuel in their gas tanks, it'll be in the final game of their season and not a moment before that.

Rielly just turned 23-years-old in March, but for two seasons now has played some of the most hard minutes possible.

This is fortuitous timing for the Leafs because they now have to rely on Rielly and fellow defenceman Jake Gardiner, who has been right there with him in the stellar-play department.

He was a no-brainer call-up when Nikita Soshnikov went down in late March, with Leafs coach Mike Babcock explaining Kapanen would have joined the team earlier if not for missing time due to a serious ankle injury.

"Daddy", he said, "if we don't go back to L.A., play with [Alex] Ovechkin because he's the best". Which we've seen Washington under pressure. Their [defence] got extended pretty hard [Saturday] night in a lot of areas.

To conserve its resources, Toronto didn't hold a practice, optional or otherwise, on Sunday.

Relief is on the way for a Toronto blue line that lost Roman Polak due to injury and was quite taxed against the high-flying Capitals. "We've got to get in front of him a little more".

"All the credit has to go to (Matt Martin) and (Boyle) there", Kapanen said.

By everyone in the organization's accounts, that work has paid off. Kapanen had a huge half season with the Marlies, raising his stock in the organization to the point that he may get playing time higher in the lineup next season, perhaps along side his pal Nylander. Washington caught a break to score its opening goal in the first period, when a broken stick on Kevin Shattenkirk's shot attempt ultimately resulted in the first of Justin Williams' two goals. The Capitals finished with 50 shots on goal Saturday, seven on the power play. Most of all, all the numbers show what your eyes probably told you: the Leafs are going toe-to-toe with a very good hockey team. Game 3 on Monday at the ACC will be the first for the organization at home since May 12, 2013, when the Leafs beat the Boston Bruins 2-1 in Game 6 of the first round. Top line RW William Nylander leads the Leafs in CF% (61.6% adjusted) over the two games, leads them in scoring chance percentage, and-if I may bring in the eye test-has looked risky as all hell. Pacing blueliners with five shots on goal Saturday, Rielly recorded his first National Hockey League playoff goal, while Gardiner tallied an assist. Ovechkin averages roughly a goal every two games in the postseason and is just under a point per game during his playoff career.

Added Kapanen: "I'm really excited to go to Toronto to see how the fans are going to be for our two games". "I think what they found out (Thursday) is they can skate with them, you can be physical with them", Babcock said. "So they're playing with confidence, they're competitive, they want to win, and they're great people". The Capitals view Toronto as a team that earned a right to play, and they, like any other team, command respect.

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