Published: Fri, April 14, 2017
Sport | By Cecil Buchanan

First night of playoffs teaches lesson to young Maple Leafs

First night of playoffs teaches lesson to young Maple Leafs

Washington's march to the Stanley Cup begins on Thursday.

Washington Capitals left wing Marcus Johansson (90) pressures Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Matt Hunwick (2) during the second period in Game 1 of an NHL Stanley Cup first round playoff series in Washington, Thursday, April 13, .

Wilson stole a clearing attempt from Martin Marincin along the wall in the Toronto zone, firing high to beat Frederik Andersen, who was otherwise sharp with 41 saves.

Led by captain Alexander Ovechkin, the Capitals have not only dominated the Metropolitan Division this season, but the entire Eastern Conference. This seasoned group has a three-time Cup victor and 2014 playoff MVP in Justin Williams and 2009 Cup champion Brooks Orpik along with a core group that has been through the postseason grind many times before.

Making the playoffs just once over the past 11 years, the Maple Leafs became the laughing stock of Canadian NHL teams. Washington won the Presidents' Trophy for having the most wins this season.

Toronto has rookie of the year front-runner Auston Matthews, candidates Mitch Marner and William Nylander and a handful of other players who will quickly figure out what playoff hockey is like.

"I thought Freddie was really good, and then he'd probably like to have that back", coach Mike Babcock said. "I think I can overcome that, but certainly that's something I was concentrating on".

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Williams gave the Capitals the opportunity to bounce back from their rough start with the fourth two-goal game of his playoff career. Aside from playing for the Oilers, he is now a team partner and vice chairman.

"You played in it a couple times and maybe you should just try to calm yourself down a little bit and make sure you focus on the right things because there's a lot of things going in your head", Backstrom said.

Game 2 is scheduled for Saturday night in Washington. After winning 13 Stanley Cups throughout the early years of their franchise, the Maple Leafs now find themselves in the midst of a fairly severe Stanley Cup drought. "So let's just go out there and play". FILE - In this January 26, 2017, file photo, Toronto Maple Leafs' Auston Matthews skates during an NHL hockey game against the Philadelphia Flyers, in Philadelphia. "The building was unbelievable, the fans are second-to-none here and, obviously, a pretty good feeling putting that in the net".

The Capitals aren't running away from big expectations.

"He's got a point", Wilson said.

"It's a tough way to start the playoffs but they came back and took it to us", Gardiner said. "They have a young and talented team and we all know that about the Leafs".

And that represents the challenge for a Maple Leafs team that had seven rookies play at least 55 games this season. Maple Leafs D Nikita Zaitsev was out with a lower-body injury. Washington has won eight in a row at home against Toronto and eight of the teams' past nine meetings.

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