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Maple Leafs show resilience against Capitals

Overcome injury to defenseman Roman Polak to win Game 2 in overtime on road

by Nicholas J. Cotsonika @cotsonika / NHL.com Columnist

WASHINGTON -- Brian Boyle was stretching on the floor outside the Toronto Maple Leafs locker room late Saturday night when teammate Roman Polak came past. You would never have known Polak had a season-ending injury, except, well, he was being pushed in a huge wheelchair with a boot on his lower right leg.

With a smile, Polak patted Boyle on the back.

"Nice job, buddy," Polak said.

"Love ya," Boyle said.

 

[RELATED: Complete Maple Leafs vs. Capitals series coverage | Capitals saying right things after Game 2 loss]

 

If that doesn't sum up the Stanley Cup Playoffs, if that doesn't sum up the Maple Leafs' 4-3 double-overtime victory against the Washington Capitals at Verizon Center, what does? These guys go through so much in pursuit of that shiny silver trophy, and even after a game like this they act like it's nothing at all.

That Kasperi Kapanen scored his second goal of the game 11:53 into the second OT on a sweet feed from Boyle, tying this best-of-7 Eastern Conference First Round series 1-1, doesn't begin to tell the story.

Video: TOR@WSH, Gm2: Clutch Kapanen wins it in 2OT

The Maple Leafs and Capitals combined for 101 shots on goal over more than 91 minutes amid a cacophony of cowbells the Capitals gave away to the fans. There were penalties and lead changes and scoring chances and big saves and orange slices and energy drinks.

The Maple Leafs, the second wild card from the East, took a 1-0 lead in the first period. The Capitals, the Presidents' Trophy winners and a popular Cup pick, took a 2-1 lead in the second.

Polak collided with Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik, and his right skate got stuck as he helicoptered to the ice, twisting his ankle in a way it should not twist. He writhed in pain right in front of the Toronto bench and had to be helped to the dressing room with 6:05 left in the second.

Video: TOR@WSH, Gm2: Polak leaves early with injury

The Maple Leafs could have folded, but they didn't. They took a 3-2 lead before the period was over, defenseman Morgan Rielly wristing a shot through traffic and into the upper right corner of the net with 13.1 seconds left.

The Capitals tied it 3-3 12:39 into the third. They hemmed the Maple Leafs in their zone for 1:18, an eternity. Time after time, the Maple Leafs lost battles or failed to clear. Center Nazem Kadri had a chance. Defenseman Jake Gardiner had a chance. Finally, defenseman Dmitry Orlov threw the puck on net, it glanced off Gardiner's stick and center Nicklas Backstrom scored.

The Maple Leafs could have folded, but they didn't. They stuck with it even though they were playing five defensemen and leaning on four. Gardiner played 40:34, Rielly 39:56, Matt Hunwick 35:46, Martin Marincin 30:38 and Connor Carrick 18:44. Goaltender Frederik Andersen made save after save, 47 total, stopping Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin on a breakaway with 36 seconds left in the first OT.

Video: TOR@WSH, Gm2: Andersen robs Ovechkin twice in OT

"I think over the course of a game that long, it's draining mentally," Rielly said. "I think that it's easy to make mistakes at the end of that. But I think we did a good job as a team backing each other up and picking each other up when we needed to."

Boyle could have been the goat. He took a tripping penalty in the first OT when he whirled around in the corner trying to whack at the puck and got his stick tangled in the legs of Capitals forward Evgeny Kuznetsov. But the Maple Leafs killed it.

"Credit to the boys for keeping that away from the headlines, making sure that wasn't a storyline," Boyle said.

And in the second OT, Boyle and linemate Matt Martin won a battle in the left-wing corner of the Washington zone. Martin sent the puck behind the net for Boyle. Kapanen saw Capitals defenseman John Carlson had lost his stick, went to the net and yelled for the puck. Boyle didn't hear him, but he saw him.

Boyle drew the defense and goaltender Braden Holtby one way, then sent a behind-the-back, backhand pass the other way. Kapanen scored before Holtby knew what happened. The 20-year-old rookie had played eight regular-season games and scored one goal. Now he had played two playoff games and scored two goals in one of them, including a double-OT winner.

"I was right behind the net when the puck went in," Boyle said. "I got a great view of it. It was just … It's a great feeling. I'm really happy for Kappy. What a game for him. … He should feel really good about himself. That's a big-time effort against a really good hockey team on the road in the playoffs. It's a nice feather in his cap."

It's a nice feather for all of these Maple Leafs as they head home for Game 3 at Air Canada Centre on Monday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports 2, CSN-DC).

"I think we've proven to everybody that we can play with these guys," Kapanen said. "I'm really excited to go to Toronto to see how the fans are going to be for our two games. It's going to be wild."

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