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Round 1

Maple Leafs seek better start in Game 5 against Capitals

Concerned about allowing early goals, as they did splitting two in Toronto

by Dave McCarthy / Correspondent

TORONTO -- The Toronto Maple Leafs will look to avoid allowing early goals in Game 5 of their Eastern Conference First Round series against the Washington Capitals at Verizon Center on Friday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports 2, CSN-DC).

The Maple Leafs have given up two goals in the first five minutes in splitting the past two games of the best-of-7 series, which is tied 2-2.

"You've got to be dialed in and ready to go," Maple Leafs defenseman Connor Carrick said. "You can't wait for the feel-out process. Sometimes in the regular season there's a bit of a lull to start. I don't know why that is, but it feels like the game doesn't start until the five-minute mark. In the playoffs, it's off puck drop, No. 1, you've got to be ready to go. You never know which detail might reward or hurt you that night."

In Game 4 at Air Canada Centre on Wednesday, Toronto center Tyler Bozak lost a defensive-zone faceoff against Washington center Nicklas Backstrom, and five seconds later, T.J. Oshie scored at 2:58 of the first period for a 1-0 lead.

Next, a failed shorthanded clearing attempt by Maple Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly allowed Capitals defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk to keep the puck in at the blue line and find forward Alex Ovechkin for a one-timer to make it 2-0 at 4:34 of the first. The Maple Leafs allowed four first-period goals in the 5-4 loss.

Video: WSH@TOR, Gm4: Ovechkin cranks slapper for PPG

In Game 3 here Monday, the Maple Leafs fell behind 2-0 in the first 4:49 but rallied for a 4-3 overtime victory.

Toronto coach Mike Babcock pointed out the mistakes to his players during a meeting before the Maple Leafs left for Washington but said it was time to turn the page.

"We're pretty straightforward and pretty honest around here," he said. "We show them when it's good and we show them when it's bad, and we just get on with it. Let's get regrouped and today's the day to get better. I always say during the series someone's getting better, so it might as well be us today."

It was another lesson learned by a mostly young Maple Leafs group.

Video: WSH@TOR, Gm3: Ovechkin cranks one-timer past Andersen

"[Babcock] talked about it at the beginning of the series … you're in the playoffs now," Carrick said. "It's difficult to put together a playoff season over 82 games and be in a position to continue playing. You've got to give it your absolute best and honestly try and believe wholeheartedly that you can make a long run at this."

Babcock tried lessening the magnitude of the moment the Maple Leafs will face in Game 5 by adding some perspective; at the start of the season, few would have predicted a team using at least seven rookies every game would be two wins from the second round. But now that they're there, he wants his players to embrace it.

"If you'd told our guys at the start of the series it would be 2-2, they'd all do a cartwheel if they knew how," Babcock said. "This is our opportunity. We've earned this opportunity [so] let's make good on this opportunity. I'm not trying to tell you, 'Hey, they're young, we shouldn't win.' I've never said that."

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