Toronto Maple Leafs clinch first playoff berth since 2013

TORONTO, ON - APRIL 8: Kasperi Kapanen #28 of the Toronto Maple Leafs scores his first NHL goal on Marc-Andre Fleury #29 of the Pittsburgh Penguinsduring the third period at the Air Canada Centre on April 8, 2017 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Graig Abel/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Toronto Maple Leafs are headed back to the playoffs for the first time since 2013, and for the first time in a full-82 game season since 2004, after clinching a spot with a nail-biting, come-from-behind 5-3 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday night.

You knew it wasn’t going to be easy, right? Easy is for other teams and fan bases.

If you were writing a script for how this game would play out for the ‘same-old Leafs,’ a goal from former Leaf Phil Kessel, a Bryan McCabe/Dave Ellett-esque own-goal courtesy of the club’s lightning-rod defenceman, and a devastating injury to their Most Valuable Player in goaltender Frederik Andersen — all but ensuring the completion of another 18-wheeler collapse tomorrow against Columbus – would’ve covered all the bases.

If you were writing a script about turning the page on a new chapter in Leafs history, it’d involve overcoming those obstacles and winning anyway thanks to three third-period goals, all scored by Leafs rookies.

The rundown of tonight’s rollercoaster ride:

  • After Phil Kessel scored the 1-0 goal in the first period, ‘the kid traded for Kessel’ — Kasperi Kapanen — answered with the 3-3 tally in the third, his first career NHL goal (and what a pass by Matt Hunwick!). CBC’s cameras cut to Kessel on the bench right after.
  • With Frederik Andersen knocked out of the game, Curtis McElhinney made a game-saving toe stop on Sidney Crosby in the final minute – one of several huge saves after coming in cold in the second period.
  • After scoring on his own net halfway through the third to give the Penguins a 3-2 lead, Jake Gardiner bounced back with a perfect shot-pass to Connor Brown in the high slot for an assist on the game-winning tally.
  • Toronto boy Connor Brown, scorer of the game-winning goal, celebrated with a Mike Foligno-style dance as the roof lifted off the ACC.
  • To seal the game with an empty-netter, Auston Matthews scored his 40th of the season, joining only Eric Lindros and Mario Lemieux among rookies 19 and younger to achieve the feat in the last 30 years.


The Leafs would do their chances in round-one a big service if they could grab a point against Columbus tomorrow, thereby renewing the Battle of Ontario next week rather than entering the Conference quarterfinals as major underdogs to the President’s Trophy winners. And Frederik Andersen’s health is obviously a matter of major concern.

All of that can wait for tomorrow. Tonight is for celebration. The Toronto Maple Leafs are going back to the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Game In Six