Maple Leafs beat Penguins to clinch final playoff spot

Tampa Bay Lightning's Brayden Point celebrates after scoring against the Toronto Maple Leafs during the third period of an NHL hockey game Thursday
Maple Leafs beat Penguins to clinch final playoff spot
Author

11 April, 2017

EAST: The Toronto Maple Leafs filled the final vacant playoff spot by beating the Pittsburgh Penguins 5-3 on Saturday night in dramatic fashion after losing goaltender Frederik Andersen to injury.

A main reason behind the Blue Jackets three goal outburst was the fact Toronto lost two defencemen in the second period and were forced to play with only four defencemen for most of the second and third period.

During intermissions of the Capitals' regular season finale, the team would check in on how the game between Toronto and Columbus was going, as that would decide Washington's first-round opponent.

The Leafs got on the board early in the second when van Riemsdyk scored the first of his two goals on the night. He allowed four goals on 29 shots.

But history will not repeat itself in the Leafs-Capitals first-round playoff affair because Goliath would have won a Best of 7 series against David.

Toronto Maple Leafs' James van Riemsdyk, second left, celebrates his goal against the Columbus Blue Jackets during second period NHL hockey action in Toronto, on Sunday, April 9, 2017.

This is the first time that the Caps have ever faced the Leafs in postseason play and marks a critical series for a team with huge expectations.

Mike Babcock promised "pain" when he was hired as the Leafs head coach in May 2015, but that pain was really short-lived.

The roster has been turned over nearly entirely too with the club also sporting a new logo and uniforms this season. Scan the home crowds at Air Canada Centre and his No. 34 jersey is nearly ubiquitous, this despite efforts by the organization to shield him and the rest of the rookies from the spotlight by limiting TV interviews, promotion and marketing.

Even the most optimistic Leafs fan couldn't have predicted they'd be in the playoffs at the start of the season.

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He batted a puck out of the air near the blue line, tracked it, maneuvered around Justin Schultz and beat Marc-Andre Fleury from the slot.

"We have put ourselves into the playoffs and that is a pretty drastic jump from a year ago".

Toronto is without the services of goaltender Frederick Anderson, who left the game last night after an unnecessary collision with Pittsburgh goon Tom Sestito. We're going to find out a lot about this Leafs team in round one when they take on arguably the most well polished team in the National Hockey League.

Babcock offered no details on what exactly transpired though, the Leafs equally secretive two weeks earlier when Andersen was bumped in similar fashion by Sabres forward William Carrier.

Tyler Bozak cashed in with a power-play goal at 3:30, one-timing a lovely shot pass from William Nylander.

"That was a good year too and a good team and now it's different", Komarov added.

But whatever momentum Toronto gained was dashed when the Penguins scored on a power play of their own, Crosby notching his NHL-leading 44th goal of the year.

No changes are expected in the Jackets' lineup, with the possible exception of Joonas Korpisalo in goal.

Kasperi Kapanen, on a pass from Matt Hunwick, sent the crowd of 19,561 into a frenzy when he scored at 14:30 of the third period to tie the game 3-3.


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