It was probably only fitting that Sunday's series-clinching Game 6 between the Capitals and the Toronto Maple Leafs would end up in overtime. Four of the previous five games also required more than 60 minutes, and all five of the previous games in the series were decided by the margin of a single goal.
Marcus Johansson's second goal of the game came at 6:31 of overtime, and it gave the Capitals a 2-1 win in Game 6 and a 4-2 series victory over a Toronto team that will be heard from again, soon and frequently. The young upstart Leafs gave the Caps all they could handle for six games, and Toronto boasts a well-run organization along with one of the game's best coaches and a roster teeming with exceptional young talent.
Video: Caps clinch series on Johansson's OT winner in Game 6
With all seven of the other first-round Stanley Cup series in the books, it was only the Caps and the Leafs who were still going when they took the ice at Air Canada Centre on Sunday. While the first four games of the series were mostly high-scoring affairs in which the two sides traded offensive punches, the last two games were taut defensive thrillers where the goaltenders provided many of the highlights and the heroics.
Neither side scored for the first 40 minutes of Game 6, and when Toronto's brilliant rookie Auston Matthews started the scoring at 7:45 of the third period, he did so in dazzling fashion, and with the benefit of a favorable bounce. Morgan Rielly's dump-in clanked off a stanchion and kicked right into the slot in front of Caps goalie Braden Holtby, making a foreboding sound as it did so. Matthews got to the rolling disc and scooped it up lacrosse-style onto his blade, whipping it into the top right hand corner of the cage.
Matthews, the teenaged rookie who scored 40 goals in his first season in the league after being drafted first overall last summer, scored in each of the last four games of the series. And his goal on Sunday gave Toronto a lead in a game for the first time since the third period of Game 2, more than a week earlier.
Video: Capitals move on to Second Round after beating Leafs
Both teams displayed resilience game after game in this series, so it wasn't surprising that the Caps were able to muster an answer for Matthews' goal just over five minutes later. Some high-pressure forechecking from Lars Eller forced an errant pass from Leafs defenseman Martin Marincin near the Toronto line, and a few seconds later the Caps got a favorable bounce of their own. Johansson's shot bounced off the blocker and the pads of Toronto netminder Frederik Andersen, and plopped just over the goal line to tie the game at 1-1 with 7:09 remaining.
Both sides had chances to win it late, but it was all Washington in the extra session. The Caps were relentless, and their mentality seemed to be one of getting pucks and bodies to the net.
An icing call on the Leafs, an Evgeny Kuznetsov face-off win over Toronto draw master Brian Boyle, and a low, flat shot from Justin Williams at the right half wall were the elements that led to Johansson's game-winner. The Washington winger got to the net and outmuscled Marincin to jam the rebound of Williams' shot home, ending another heart-stopping overtime contest and the series.
"As the series went on, our net presence got better and better," says Caps defenseman Matt Niskanen. "We made it an emphasis to have guys plant themselves there, head there, get pucks there, and a lot of goals in this series were scored that way, throwing pucks at the net; they were short rebound-type goals and we got better and better in that regard as the series went on."
Video: Caps players talk to the media after a Game 6 win
Formidable Foes - From the opening minutes of Game 1 when the Leafs roared out to an early 2-0 lead to stun the crowd at Verizon Center, it was apparent that Toronto wasn't simply content with making the playoffs and getting some postseason experience for its gaggle of budding young stars.
Williams scored for Washington a few minutes later, and the Leafs never again held a multi-goal lead in the series. But their speed, their drive and their creativity posed problems for the Caps every night, and Andersen matched Holtby almost save for save throughout most of the series.
The Leafs were the last of the 16 teams to nail down a playoff berth, and they were the last of the eight teams ousted in the first round. At series end, the Caps were left with a lot of respect for the Leafs and the Toronto organization. They've got the makings of a contending team for years to come, and one of the best in-game atmospheres anywhere. When you are at the Air Canada Centre, you know you're at a hockey game.
Video: Coach Trotz talks after the Game 6 win in Toronto
"I want to throw congratulations to Brendan Shanahan, the Toronto Maple Leafs, Lou Lamoriello, Mike Babcock and his staff," says Caps coach Barry Trotz. "You see what they're building here and the great atmosphere they've built and the Leafs Nation and the fans.
"What a great atmosphere in Toronto. They've got something to be very, very excited [about]. They pushed us and they hardened us this series, and that bodes well for the Leafs, and I just want to congratulate them on a fantastic season. We knew it was going to be a tough series. I think we knew it more than most of the media and the general public. We knew how hard they were to play during the year, and we saw their growth. I just thought they had a fantastic season and they've got a lot to look forward to here."
Washington won three overtime games in the same series for the first time since 1998 when it needed extra time three times in which to oust the Buffalo Sabres in a six-game Eastern Conference final series.
Video: Johansson on his two goals in Game 6
Got My Mojo Working - According to Elias Sports Bureau, Johansson becomes the sixth player in Washington's franchise history to score a series-clinching goal in overtime and the first to do so in nearly five years, since Joel Ward did so in Game 7 against the Bruins in Boston on April 25, 2012.
Johansson joins Dale Hunter, John Druce, Brian Bellows, Joé Juneau and Ward on that distinguished list.
Also according to Elias, Johansson is the first player in Caps franchise history to score a game-tying goal in the third period and then score a series-clinching goal in overtime of the same game.
Finally, Johansson is just the third NHL player in the last 30 years to record a multi-goal game while scoring every goal for his team in a series-clinching playoff win in overtime. Vancouver's Alex Burrows in 2011 (Game 7 vs. Chicago, 2-1) and the New York Islanders' John Tavares in 2016 (Game 6 vs. Florida, 2-1) are the only other NHL players to achieve the feat since 1987.
Sunday's Game 6 was Johansson's second career postseason multi-goal game and his first career postseason overtime goal. Johansson scored twice in an April 20, 2011 playoff game against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.
Video: WSH@TOR, Gm6: Johansson scores two to seal the series
Top Six Strikes - Washington's top six forwards were also its top six scorers in the first-round series with the Leafs. All six forwards collected at least three points, as did Tom Wilson and Kevin Shattenkirk.
The Caps' top six forwards accounted for 14 of the team's 18 goals in the series, including 10 at even strength.
Hot Holts - After surrendering four goals in three straight games for the first time in his Stanley Cup Playoff career and for the first time in more than two years, Caps goalie Braden Holtby turned in two vintage Holtby playoff performances in the final two games of the series.
Holtby stopped 61 of 63 shots he faced in the final two games, and Matthews managed the only two shots that beat him over that span.
"He came up huge," says Trotz, "and that's what Braden Holtby does. I know earlier in the series he took some criticism, and there were a lot of doubters out there. The only people that doubted him were the people on the outside. But in our room, there was no doubt. He has been too good for too long, and he makes those key saves. That's why he is a Vezina candidate the last few years."
Holtby's career save pct. of .936 in the playoffs is the best in league history and his playoff GAA of 1.93 is tops among all active goaltenders and the best in the NHL over the last six decades.
With the Game 6 win over the Leafs, Holtby has squared his career playoff mark at 26-26.
Video: ALL CAPS | April 23
First-Round Round-Up - Twenty-Eight of the 42 games (66.7%) played in the first round of the playoffs were decided by a single goal, and another five contests were decided by a single goal plus an empty-netter (a combined total of 78.6%). Only the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs (32 of 48 games, 66.7%) featured a first round with as high a percentage of one-goal games.
The Caps more than did their part in the first round in 2012, too, skating to seven one-goal games and four overtime contests in a first-round series with the Boston Bruins.
Eighteen of the 42 first-round games in 2017 required overtime (42.9%), a record for any round in the history of the Stanley Cup playoffs. The previous record of 17 of 47 (36.2%) overtime games was set in the first round of the 2013 playoffs.
Washington and Toronto went to overtime in five of their six games, matching the single-series NHL postseason mark set by Toronto and Montreal in the 1951 Stanley Cup Final and matched by Phoenix and Chicago in the first round of the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The Capitals played a series with six or more one-goal games for the fourth time in franchise history and the first since the second round of the 2015 playoffs against the New York Rangers, when all seven games were decided by a single goal.
According to Elias, Washington and Toronto played more than 80 percent of the first-round series tied or within one goal of each other. The two sides played a total of 406 minutes and 20 seconds of hockey in the series, and 339 minutes and 12 seconds of that time (83.5%) was played with the two teams even or with one team or the other up by a single goal.
Video: NHL Tonight discusses the Capitals' OT win in Game 6
Kid Stuff - Matthews scored for the Leafs in each of the last four games of the series against the Caps. According to Elias, the 19-year-old Matthews is just the second teenager in NHL history to score four straight team playoff games in one year. The other teen with a four-game goal streak also did so for the Maple Leafs: Wendel Clark at age 19 in 1986.
Matthews is the first rookie on any NHL team to produce a four-game goal-scoring streak in one playoff year since Logan Couture turned the trick for the Sharks in 2011.
By The Numbers - Fifteen of the 19 skaters the Caps deployed in the series against the Leafs registered a point in the six-game set … Dmitry Orlov led the Caps with 25:38 in ice time … Alex Ovechkin led the Caps with seven goals and a dozen shot attempts … Niskanen and Ovechkin led Washington with six hits each … Orlov, John Carlson and T.J. Oshie led Washington with three blocked shots each … Washington won only 22 of 61 (39 percent) draws in the game, but won the last one and ended the game and the series seven seconds later.