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NHL Stadium Series

Maple Leafs fail to get revenge on Capitals at Stadium Series

After loss in playoffs last season, Toronto falls short in outdoor game

by Mike Zeisberger @Zeisberger / Staff Writer

ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- The eye black on Frederik Andersen's cheeks made him look angry. Actually, he didn't need any help in that regard.

Given the hook after surrendering five goals on 25 shots, the Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender was irked, irritated and admittedly embarrassed. In the end, he and his teammates had reason to be.

Last season, these Maple Leafs were defeated in six games in the Eastern Conference First Round by the Washington Capitals. On Saturday, in front of 29,516 at the 2018 Coors Light Stadium Series Game at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, the chance was there to gain retribution in front of national television audiences on each side of the border.


[RELATED: Capitals top Maple Leafs in Stadium Series | Complete NHL Stadium Series coverage]


Instead, the Capitals had their way with the Maple Leafs.


"We knew it was a big night," Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock said sternly after a 5-2 loss to the Capitals. "They look at us and they still think we're kids. And it looked like we were kids out there tonight.

"I thought they smacked us around."

If the Maple Leafs were looking to gain some respect from the likes of Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, John Carlson and the rest of the Capitals, Babcock made it clear his team failed.

Backstrom, Carlson and Evgeny Kuznetsov each had three points for the Capitals, who dominated throughout.

The Maple Leafs are headed to Buffalo, where Babcock promised a grueling practice would be awaiting them on Sunday.

"I didn't think we executed at all," Babcock said. "I didn't think we played fast.

"We weren't very good. They got on us. I didn't think we executed at all. I didn't think there were very many good players. In life, you only get so many opportunities and you want these to be real positive memories, and so you've got to be prepared and you've got to be willing to play hard. You have way better memories when you win. And when you don't, it's kind of unfortunate."

Video: TOR@WSH: Babcock on Stadium Series loss

With 8:49 remaining in the second period, Babcock opted to replace Andersen with backup Curtis McElhinney. It was the first time Andersen had been pulled this season for a reason other than injury.

"It was going in," Babcock said when asked why he made the move. "I didn't want to leave him in there and have a bunch more going in.

"He's our guy. He's our starter. We have to look after him. (McElhinney) got an opportunity. I thought he played well and gave us an opportunity to crawl back. We didn't."

In the Maple Leafs dressing room, Andersen's answers to the media were so quiet you could hardly hear him. It was obvious this loss hurt more than usual.

"I think we just got outbattled a little bit," he said. "The military theme was cool, but when you don't win they don't feel as good."

Earlier in the day, Babcock revealed center Auston Matthews has been skating every day, providing hope to Maple Leafs fans that a return might not be too far off.

Matthews injured his shoulder against the New York Islanders on Feb. 22 and has been out of the lineup since. Toronto has gone 1-1-2 without him.

Babcock and his players refused to use the absence of Matthews as an excuse. Instead, they simply admitted the Capitals were the better team Saturday.

"I think they definitely executed a little bit better than us and, I don't know, they just did a good job of keeping it simple," Maple Leafs forward James van Riemsdyk said. "Obviously in conditions like this, it's probably the best bet - keep it simple."

Asked about the blustery conditions, van Riemsdyk chuckled.

"When you have the wind at your back, you feel like you're flying and when you're going the other way down the ice, it doesn't quite feel the same," he said.

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