(By: Nick Baxter)
Game 2 of the first round series between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Washington Capitals went to double overtime Sunday night ending with a 4-3 win for the Leafs.
Leaf Nation could barely watch as they knew a loss and a 2-0 deficit in the series would be near impossible to overcome against the Capitals. If they had any chance of winning this series at all, the Leafs knew they had to win this game before going home for Game 3.
“It was obviously a huge win for our team,” said coach Mike Babcock in the post-game press conference. “We’re going to get better and better as our confidence grows.”
Just about halfway through the game’s second overtime period, it was 20-year-old rookie, Kasperi Kapanen, who sealed the deal for the Leafs after tapping in a great pass from line mate Brian Boyle.
Washington’s fourth line were the heroes in overtime of Game 1 and on Saturday night it was the Leafs’ fourth line who stepped up. The line – made up of Kapanen, Boyle, and Matt Martin – did much more than contribute in overtime. They also scored to tie the game 2-2 in the second period where each player recorded a point on the play. Kapanen scored both goals for his line – the first two of his NHL playoff career.
After playing four games since entering the starting lineup, Kapanen has three goals. His first was in the fifth game of his career – the playoff-clinching game against Pittsburgh. Kapanen has made his presence felt and is now a hero in the eyes of Leaf fans.
“I’m just really excited to go back to Toronto and see how the fans are for our two games,” said Kapanen in the post-game press conference following Sunday’s night victory.
The young Leafs kept up with the Presidents’ Trophy winners from start to finish, turning the heads of those who thought Washington was too good of a team.
“We don’t expect to be here just for the experience,” said Toronto’s goaltender, Frederik Andersen. “We want to do more and show that we can play.”
Despite the roller-coaster of emotions that ended in an all-time high for Maple Leaf players and fans, the team suffered a huge loss to their defensive core. Roman Polak fell awkwardly on his right leg after being hit by Capitals’ defenceman, Brooks Orpik, while rushing the puck in the second period. Polak went straight to the locker room after the play. Following the game, Babcock announced Polak will miss the remainder of the playoffs with a lower body injury.
Jake Gardiner felt the loss of Polak most, recording just over 40 total minutes of ice time in the game. Despite their ability to survive without Polak in Game 2, fans are left wondering how the Leafs will do without him for the remainder of the playoffs.
The other two Leafs’ goals were scored by James van Riemsdyk in the first period and Morgan Rielly in the second to give Toronto a 3-2 lead.
After another game-saving performance by Anderson in net, it appears the Leafs are hot at the perfect time. After stealing home ice from Washington, the Leafs now carry momentum into Game 3 and are coming home to the Air Canada Centre for Monday night’s game at 7 p.m.