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Nazem Kadri's muscle helps turn tide for Maple Leafs

Toronto center's hits led to comeback win, 2-1 series lead on Capitals; Game 4 Wednesday

by Dave McCarthy / NHL.com Correspondent

TORONTO -- The Toronto Maple Leafs were losing 2-0 to the Washington Capitals, on two shots on goal, 4:49 into Game 3 of the Eastern Conference First Round on Monday.

They needed a lift, and when center Nazem Kadri hopped over the boards at 13:04 of the first period, they got it.

In the course of his 57-second shift, Kadri had two hits against Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik, pumping life into the crowd at Air Canada Centre. Seven seconds after his shift ended, rookie center Auston Matthews scored his first career Stanley Cup Playoff goal to cut into the Capitals lead.

Video: WSH@TOR, Gm3: Matthews pots first playoff goal

Kadri's physical shift helped slow Washington's momentum, and Toronto was able to rally to win 4-3 when center Tyler Bozak scored at 1:37 of overtime.

The Maple Leafs lead 2-1 in the best-of-7 series, which continues with Game 4 here Wednesday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports 2, CSN-DC).

"That was a huge shift for the entire team," said Maple Leafs forward William Nylander, who watched Kadri's shift from the bench before taking the ice with Matthews. "I think it got the building going and gave us a little bit of momentum. It was great to see those guys go out and do a great job. You want to get out there and try to take over the game the way they did."

Maple Leafs defenseman Jake Gardiner, who was on the ice for half of Kadri's shift, agreed it was a turning point.

"That was huge," he said. "[Kadri] has been a leader for us all year. He's one of those guys who makes big plays and that was an example of it. He didn't score a goal or anything [on that shift], but he got the crowd involved and it kind of energized our bench."

 

[RELATED: Complete Maple Leafs vs. Capitals series coverage

 

Capitals coach Barry Trotz said Kadri's physicality helped swing the momentum to the Maple Leafs, but he pointed to moments Washington did not seize, including a two-minute 5-on-3 power play in the second period, when a goal would have put the Capitals ahead 4-1.

"[Kadri] got the crowd into it so they're going to say it's a momentum-changer," Trotz said. "We had a 5-on-3 that we didn't capitalize on, that was a momentum-changer too for them. There's different moments when two teams are battling, we've obviously gone to three games of overtime, so there's not much room.

"There's going to be a shift or two that will change momentum, and then we'll do something well and it will give us momentum and zone time and the momentum will swing right back to us. When that happens, you've got to find a way to get it back. For them, the crowd was a little quiet, they had a couple of big hits, the crowd got into it and they like the physical play up here in Toronto."

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

Kadri scored at 15:13 of the second period to get the Maple Leafs to within 3-2 and assisted on Bozak's overtime goal. Kadri finished tied with Zach Hyman with a Toronto-high six hits.

"He probably had enough of watching us so he went out and got physical a little bit and you got a little momentum," Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock said about Kadri's first-period shift. "I think he's at his best when he's dialed in and focused, and so whatever that means, he has to do to get to that. I think Leo [Komarov] is like that too; they enjoy the matchup."

On the same shift, Komarov hit Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin.

"It gave us a spark for sure," Maple Leafs defenseman Matt Hunwick said. "There were a few big hits on that shift, [Kadri] had at least two of them. We got control of the puck and the Matthews line came out and we scored right away. Certainly that got our guys into it, the building was into it at that point for sure and we capitalized right after, so it was a big moment in the game."

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