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Five Takeaways - Leafs at Capitals - 04/13/17

Here are five takeaways from the Maple Leafs' 3-2 overtime loss to the Washington Capitals in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series Thursday at Verizon Center:

by Adam Proteau / MapleLeafs.com

Video: TOR@WSH, Gm1: Marner lays out to open the scoring

1. Loose Leafs jump out to early lead on goals from Marner, Gardiner. The Leafs said prior to the beginning of the series they weren't intimidated by the Capitals finishing the regular season as the NHL's best team, and they certainly didn't look intimidated in Game 1, as Toronto scored the first two goals of the night Thursday to jump out to a 2-0 lead by the midway through the first period.

The Buds' first goal came from winger Mitch Marner, who began the scoring sequence at the Capitals' blueline, then knocked a James van Riemsdyk rebound past Caps goalie Brayden Holtby at 1:35 of the first for his first career NHL post-season marker. Toronto then doubled their lead at 9:44 of the frame when a Jake Gardiner shot from the point went through traffic and eluded Holtby. The play was initially waived off due to what the officials believed was goalie interference, but the Leafs challenged the play, and video review showed centre Nazem Kadri made no contact with Holtby, so the call was reversed in Toronto's favour.

The pair of goals demonstrated to Caps fans in attendance and the hockey world that the Leafs were more than capable of competing with Washington, and a throng of Buds fans watching on in Maple Leafs Square were elated by their team's start.

2. Capitals get on scoreboard after Toronto gets in penalty trouble. The Capitals looked tense at the start of the night, but slowly found their stride as the first period unfolded and forced the Leafs into taking two penalties in 30 seconds shortly after Gardiner's goal. The ensuing 5-on-3 man advantage lasted 90 seconds, and just as the first penalty had expired, Washington got on the scoresheet when winger Justin Williams beat Buds netminder Frederik Andersen to net his 34th career post-season goal at the 12:24 mark.

Special teams are always a factor in NHL games, but even more so in the playoffs, and giving the deep and skilled Capitals a two-man-advantage for any significant stretch of time is playing with fire. Toronto head coach Mike Babcock knew his team would need to be disciplined to keep pace with Washington, and he wasn't likely surprised with the result when it was unable to stay out of the penalty box.

3. Williams adds second of the night to pull Caps even late in second frame. Toronto outshot Washington 28-25 through the first two periods, but the Leafs needed another strong performance from Andersen, who you could make a good argument for as the Buds' regular-season MVP. They got that strong showing from him, but late in the middle period, Capitals blueliner Matt Niskanen lifted a shot at Toronto's net that Andersen didn't see, and Williams was right in front of him and pushed the puck into the net for his second of the game and a 2-2 tie with four minutes left before the second intermission.

Video: TOR@WSH, Gm1: Andersen robs Johansson with glove stop

Andersen made a number of terrific stops throughout the evening and gave his team a chance to win, but no NHL goalie is perfect, and any opponent has to be opportunistic at this time of year in order to win games. Williams and the Caps were on that play, and they entered the final regulation period tied because of it. 

4. Washington presses in third, but neither team generates offence and game goes to extra time. Stanley Cup playoff games are famous for often requiring overtime - and in some cases, multiple overtime periods - to determine winners, and despite Washington outshooting Toronto 13-7 in the third period, Andersen continued to shine in the Leafs' net and the 60-minute mark of the contest came and went without either side producing a third (and game-winning) goal.

This was Andersen's first playoff game as a Leaf, but it was the 29th post-season game of his NHL career, and his calmness and resilience - including his glove save on a shot from Caps winger Marcus Johansson late in regulation - was a major factor in extending Game 1 to extra time. 
 
5. Wilson wins it for Caps early in OT. The Capitals continued to outperform the Leafs on the shot counter in overtime, getting out to a 5-2 advantage through the first five minutes of the fourth period. And, on the sixth shot, after the Buds failed to clear the puck out of the zone, Caps winger Tom Wilson put the puck at the net from the side boards to Andersen's left, and beat him high and short side to win the game for the home team and put Washington up 1-0 in the series.

The goal was certainly one Andersen would've wanted another shot at, but again, it needs to be stressed that the Leafs wouldn't have made it to OT without a solid showing from their No. 1 goaltender. The Buds came up on the losing end on this occasion, but they have a number of positives to take into Game 2 Saturday at Verizon Center, and certainly aren't about to be walked over in this series.

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