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Five Takeaways - Leafs vs. Capitals - 04/17/17

Here are five takeaways from the Maple Leafs' 4-3 overtime victory over the Washington Capitals in Game 3 of their first-round playoff series Monday at Air Canada Centre:

by Adam Proteau / MapleLeafs.com

Matthews chips in loose puck

WSH@TOR, Gm3: Matthews follows puck, beats Holtby

R1, Gm3: Auston Matthews grabs a loose puck off a defender, then slides it past Braden Holtby for his first career Stanley Cup Playoff goal

  • 01:02 •

1. Capitals strike early to stake out two-goal advantage, but Leafs cut lead in half before first intermission thanks to Matthews' terrific individual effort. The Air Canada Centre was abuzz with excitement when the game began Monday, but it was the Capitals who got on the scoresheet first via a Nicklas Backstrom goal at 2:43. Washington extended their lead 2:06 later, when winger Alex Ovechkin wired a slap shot past Toronto goalie Frederik Andersen. But before the period was over, Leafs Nation had much to cheer for - including a massive hit by centre Nazem Kadri on Brooks Orpik, and, shortly thereafter, a phenomenal goal from cetnre Auston Matthews at the 14:08 mark.

Matthews' first career NHL post-season goal came on an amazing individual effort, where he controlled a bouncing puck before batting it past Caps netminder Brayden Holtby. That sent the crowd into an eruption of applause, and sent the Capitals a message: that, just like they did in the first two games of the series, the Leafs weren't about to be pushed over by anyone.

Video: WSH@TOR, Gm3: Kadri tallies off a defender

2. Washington re-establishes two-goal lead early in middle frame, but Kadri cuts it back to one. The Capitals were outshot by Toronto 10-7 in the first period, but they pushed back in the middle frame and forced the Leafs into giving up three power plays, including a 5-on-3 Caps man advantage for a full two-minutes starting at the 6:52 mark of the second. The Buds' penalty-killing unit prevented Washington from scoring on any of them, but the visitors did generate more offence at 5:39 of the second when centre Evgeny Kuznetsov scored to make it 3-1.

Still, the resilient Buds refused to let that take any wind out of their collective sail, and answered back at the 15:13 mark when a Kadri shot from the point ricocheted off Orpik and into the Capitals' net to cut the lead to a single marker. A little bit of good puck fortune always helps a team at this time of year, and a bounce that went Toronto's way was just what the ACC crowd was hoping for.

Video: WSH@TOR, Gm3: Nylander slips a rebound past Holtby

3. Leafs' youngsters collaborate with skill, physicality to tie it up in final seconds of second. The Leafs have benefitted throughout the regular season from the contributions of their young players, and with 39.3 seconds left in the second period, Toronto's line of Matthews and wingers Zach Hyman and William Nylander collaborated perfectly to tie the contest at three goals apiece.

The scoring sequence began when Hyman chased the puck deep into the Caps' zone and laid into Orpik along the end boards, freeing up the puck to Matthews. He then set up Nylander directly in front of the net, and although Holtby stopped his first shot, Nylander got the rebound and shot it into the open net to tie things up. It was an ideal example of what the line has been doing all year - creating space and puck control with Hyman's legwork, and having Matthews and Nylander finish with their superior puck skills. 
 
4. Buds dominate third period, but neither side scores and third straight overtime is needed to determine winner. Toronto continued its momentum swing well into the third period, keeping the puck int the Caps' zone for the grand majority of the frame and preventing Washington from getting a shot on Andersen until 6:35 remained in regulation time. The Leafs also got three power plays of the night in the third - more on that in our fifth takeaway - but, despite coming very close to taking the lead on a few occasions, they were unable to produce that fourth goal in regulation time.

The good news for Leafs Nation is the Buds' dominance continued through the rest of the frame - outshooting Washington 9-3 in the final 20 minutes of regulation - and the Capitals also couldn't come up with more offence in the third. And so, for the third straight game in this series, overtime was required to settle matters. 

Video: WSH@TOR, Gm3: Bozak seals OT win with power-play goal
 
5. Bozak scores game-winner on power play to put Leafs ahead in series. The Leafs' power play didn't convert on its first two chances, but Washington centre Lars Eller was called for high-sticking on Hyman with 16 seconds left in the third, and that penalty carried over into extra time. And, just as Toronto's advantage was winding down, Kadri fired the puck toward the net from the side boards to the right of Holtby, and centre Tyler Bozak redirected it into the net to win the game for the Buds at 1:37 of OT and give the Leafs a 2-1 series advantage.

Three Leafs - Matthews, Kadri and blueliner Morgan Rielly - finished the game with two points apiece, and Andersen held the fort long enough to put his team in position to win.
The ACC crowd was deliriously happy when Bozak scored, and although there's a lot of series left to play - including Game 4 Wednesday at ACC - this Leafs team is giving them plenty of reason to believe they're going to push the Capitals to their limits.

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