In their most dramatic victory since game 6 versus Boston in 2013, the Maple Leafs came out on top of a gruelling 92-minute battle in Game 2 thanks to Kasperi Kapanen’s double-OT winner in Washington.
Home-ice advantage: Leafs.
Your game in ten:
1. Tonight’s effort from Frederik Andersen reminded me of when Curtis Joseph stopped 52 of 54 in the triple-OT win over Ottawa in Game 2 of the 2002 Battle of Ontario with the Leafs trailing 1-0 in the series. This was an incredible 47-save performance. Andersen was the Leafs‘ MVP in the regular season, but showing the ability to steal a playoff win on the road in a tough building against the President’s Trophy winners is a statement game and a half.
The last time a Leafs goalie made that many saves in a playoff game: Ed Belfour’s 72-save performance against the Flyers in 2003 (an OT loss in Game 4). Potvin and Joseph are the only goalies in Leafs history to stop that many in the playoffs and win, and both did it at home with the Leafs as higher seeds (vs. Chicago in ’95 and Ottawa in ’02). This was a special goaltending performance and a huge bounce-back game from Andersen after Tom Wilson’s OT winner in Game 1 (he has shown that quality all year).
2. In 33:22 of even strength ice time for Jake Gardiner (who played 40:34 total), he finished with 53.3% of possession and was on the ice for three goals for and one against. The first Leaf goal was his creation after he pirouetted high in the zone and cut into the slot, occupying the attention of four Washington Capitals before JVR hopped on the broken play and buried nicely:
Gardiner’s goal in Game 1 was similar; he was all over the offensive zone and played a bit of keep-away while patiently waiting for Kadri to plant the screen on Holtby. Tonight, he finished with 60+% possession in roughly 10:30 against the Ovechkin line. He’s playing out of his mind.
3. Also elevating his game to new heights so far this series — and it’s even more impressive in one sense because he had such an up-and-down regular season, including an injury that is tough to overcome — is Morgan Rielly, who finished just behind Gardiner with 39:56 TOI. Maybe he’s elevating in the playoffs simply because he’s a gamer, but getting significant power play time in Nikita Zaitsev’s absence might play a role here, too, in terms of serving as a plus to his confidence. Babcock often talks about Rielly “always having the puck” growing up in reference to his development process of learning how to play without it. Players like Rielly feed off of puck touches to get themselves into games and feeling good.
His shot has taken some criticism — not undeservedly — but he’s definitely an asset when it comes to walking the line and getting a quick shot off through traffic. On his 3-2 power play goal late in the second, he was pressured tightly as he waited for the pass to Marner to open up, and he showed great poise to hold, walk along the blue, and put his shot through in a perfect spot.
4. Martin Marincin deserves a nod here as well. Not only was he thrown into the lineup cold for Game 1 after a month off, the Leafs lost Roman Polak in the second period of this game and Marincin had to take on a boatload more minutes than the 14 he played on Thursday while playing on his offside to boot (which he seems to handle pretty well when it’s asked of him). He hasn’t been perfect by any means, but that is not easy. He wasn’t on the ice for a 5v5 goal against and was on for two Leaf goals despite starting 15 of his 24 shifts in the defensive zone. It was a costly penalty he took prior to Ovechkin’s goal, but it also looked like he was speared and the refs only called the retaliation.
5. The Leafs’ right side is now decimated if both Polak and Zaitsev are out for game 3 (we know Polak is done for the year for sure), but if Zaitsev comes back? This series is going to get very interesting. The Leafs have trailed for just 3:19 total through two road games without their top RHD.
6. Two of the three Capitals goals came on the power play as the Leafs went 2 for 5 on the penalty kill in Game 2. Matt Hunwick should’ve played both of those goals better; the Leafs lost a couple of puck battles in the corner prior to Ovechkin’s goal and #8 was wide open, but there was a strange hesitance by Hunwick to rip the puck glass-and-out after Boyle won the initial draw (it looked like he was caught in between going behind the net to Polak or up the wall, only opting for the latter once it was too late). He also got caught in no-man’s land — neither closing on the shooter or blocking the shot, while also screening Andersen — as John Carlson walked in and ripped it home on the Caps’ second power play goal.
7. Kasperi Kapanen: best late-season/playoff call-up since Lonny Bohonos in 1999 (he scored three in seven regular season games and three goals/nine points in nine playoff games)? He grabbed the opportunity afforded by the Soshnikov injury with both hands and never looked back. He provides such a lift to that line with his pace on the forecheck; there have been a bunch of times in the past few games where a Capitals defenceman thinks he’s got time to retrieve a puck and turn it back up ice, or starts to think that he’s shaken Kapanen loose, only to be harassed into making a play he doesn’t want to make. He’s stronger on the puck than many of us realized, he’s obviously got the “right place, right time” quality to him offensively, and he’s a composed finisher. The fourth-line was a major catalyst in this game, not just in terms of the two goals they scored but also a couple of push-back shifts at key times.
Matt Martin picked up two assists — they weren’t nothing assists either, as he put pucks into the right areas on both — and landed 10 hits, while Boyle’s overtime pass was such an intelligent play (his strength on the puck to fend off a check and one-arm it towards the net helped create the 2-2 goal, as well). With all of the talk about the Capitals’ amazing fourth line after Game 1, this was quite the response from the Leafs’ L4 unit.
8. Note that John Carlson could do nothing about Kapanen on the OT winner because his stick broke seconds earlier, and think back to the broken stick play that benefited the Caps in Game 1. It all comes back around in a playoff series.
Also, note that it was the Kuznetsov line that the Leafs fourth line beat for the game winner in OT, with Kasperi Kapanen (a winger taking his first ever NHL faceoff) beating Kuznetsov on the draw. Who was it that celebrated in Polak’s face earlier in the game, again?
9. Speaking of the Kuznetsov unit, they were the Capitals’ best forward line in Game 1 and the Leafs needed a response from Matthews’ group in that matchup in Game 2. They got just that; Nylander, Hyman and Matthews led the Leafs in possession and Kuznetsov’s group finished at the bottom among the Capitals. In 12 minutes of Matthews vs. Kuznetsov head to head, Matthews finished a 64% CF and a 77% Shots For Percentage (10 on-ice shots for, 3 against). Matthews also put four shots on goal individually and won 65% of his draws. Zach Hyman, who struggled in Game 1, battled relentlessly late into this marathon and finished tops on the team with a 69% CF.
10. So much to talk about with such a drama-packed game — Marner’s backcheck on Ovechkin’s breakaway in OT; Boyle taking a bad penalty, the Leafs surviving it, and Boyle setting up the game-winner; the Leafs gutting out a double-OT win with five D; more generally, the invaluable experience the Leafs rookie class just gained tonight — but there’s not enough time for it all tonight. Anthony will have much more in his notebook tomorrow.
Until then, enjoy this Joe Bowen call of Kapanen’s OT winner and watch the Game in 6 until the play button breaks.