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Five Takeaways - Leafs vs. Capitals - 04/23/17

Here are five takeaways from the Maple Leafs' 2-1 overtime loss to the Washington Capitals in Game 6 of their first-round playoff series Sunday at Air Canada Centre:

by Adam Proteau Proteautype /

1.   Toronto outshoots, out-chances Capitals in opening frame, but neither side produces offence in first 20 minutes. Facing elimination, the Leafs came out of the gate Sunday with a sturdy and smart first period, keeping the puck in the Capitals' zone for long stretches and outshooting Washington 14-10 in the first 20 minutes of action. 

However, neither the Buds nor the Caps were able to generate any offence before the first intermission, and the score remained 0-0 entering the second frame. But Leafs Nation and head coach Mike Babcock likely both were pleased to see the defensive structure and competitive effort out of Toronto's players right off the bat. In a must-win matchup, the Leafs played with necessary urgency.

2.   Second period looks much like the first, with Leafs outshooting Caps, but no goals coming at either end. The middle period was a near-carbon-copy of the first, as the Leafs fired another 14 shots at Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby - and Washington replying with 11 shots on Toronto netminder Frederik Andersen - but both goaltenders turned aside all pucks that came their way, and the scoreless tie extended into the start of the third period.

There were numerous close calls - defenceman Jake Gardiner hit the crossbar at one end, and Andersen stopped winger Justin Williams when he was all alone in front of Toronto's net - but this was the epitome of hotly-contested playoff action. The battles along the boards were ferocious, and each team had to be at their best when it came to minimizing mistakes and playing an aggressive-but-intelligent game.


Video: WSH@TOR, Gm6: Matthews roofs gorgeous wrist shot

3.   Matthews scores first goal of the game after fortunate dump-in from Rielly. The third period began in much the same way as the two that preceded it, with both sides pushing hard and looking for a fortunate bounce that might turn into a goal. And that's exactly what happened at the 7:45 mark of the frame: blueliner Morgan Rielly fired the puck in on a zone entry, and it ricocheted off the stanchion directly to centre Auston Matthews, who had the puck on his stick for a fraction of a second before roofing it past Holtby to make it 1-0 for the home team.

Sometimes even the best NHL squads need some good fortune to help them along, and in a game and a series that was about as evenly-matched as it gets, Toronto benefitted from some to get out in front.

4.   Capitals even the score, and game goes to overtime for the fifth time in series. The Air Canada Centre crowd was deliriously happy after Matthews put Toronto ahead, but the Capitals have proven a resilient club in the same way the Buds have, and Washington answered back at 12:49 of the period when winger Marcus Johansson snuck a puck past the right side of Andersen by the post and made it 1-1.

After that, the teams reverted back to their form for most of the game, swapping scoring chances and coming close to taking the lead on a number of occasions. But despite outshooting the Caps 37-31 through 60 minutes of action, the Leafs were unable to get that second goal in regulation time, and for the fifth time in six games of the series, overtime was necessary to determine a victor.

5.   Johansson scores his second of the game to win game, series for Capitals. The Capitals came out of the dressing room with a purpose in overtime, outshooting Toronto 5-1. And that fifth shot proved to be the game-and-series-winner, as Johansson scored his second of the night at 6:31 of OT.

The result ended the Leafs' centennial season, but the fans in attendance showed how proud they were of a young Toronto squad that exceeded the expectations of many pundits and exhilarated their city with skill, resilience and effort throughout the regular-season and playoffs by standing on their feet and chanting "Go Leafs go!" after the game was over. The Buds will have the off-season to refocus and reset for next year, but for now, they can take solace in the fact Toronto appreciates them more than ever and are thrilled at the prospects of what's ahead.

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