Toronto has been waiting.
The Maple Leafs and Washington Capitals are set to drop the puck for Game 3 Monday night at the Air Canada Centre. It's the first playoff game in Toronto since the epic opening-round meltdown against the Boston Bruins in 2013. That's ancient history and all but erased from the now-bouyant Leafs fans' memories.
Today with the series tied 1-1 all eyes are on the new-age, young Leafs -- can they push forward and put the NHL's best team on their heels?
It was a veteran forward who pulled through for them Saturday night in Game 2 to even the first-round series. Brian Boyle's 102 career playoff games, far more than the overwhelming majority of his teammates, proved to be invaluable experience as he made a beautiful play to set up Kasperi Kapanen for the double-overtime winner. Boyle showed poise and resilience after nearly costing his team the game with an uncharacteristic penalty in overtime.
Who will be the hero in Game 3?
The Leafs will need everyone charging on all cylinders if they want to keep the Capitals at bay in front of their home crowd. The high-powered Washington offense can never be forgotten. You can bet goalie Frederik Andersen, who made 47 saves, will be key to a Leafs win.
Then there's rookie Auston Matthews, the 40-goal scorer who was quiet in Game 1 but gained momentum in his second career playoff game. Matthews had 4 shots in nearly 30 minutes of ice time on Saturday.
"I thought as the game went on (Matthews) and (Zach Hyman) really took over," Leafs coach Mike Babcock said afterward.
The Hyman, Matthews and William Nylander line was dangerous, indeed, but now they'll have to convert if they want to keep their team rolling.
Ovechkin, Backstrom, Oshie ready to explode
It was only a matter of time before the Capitals' top line started finding the back of the net. Alex Ovechkin had 9 shots Saturday but only one goal. Nicholas Backstrom scored as well, but there's a sense this line with T.J. Oshie is just getting wound up.
The Leafs will have to accept this group will get their chances and goals. Countering will be the real challenge.
Holtby will seek redemption
Boyle's backhand pass from behind the net fooled Capitals goalie Braden Holtby who never saw the puck go in behind him. Holtby is being outplayed by Andersen at this point, but there is no reason to think the Vezina winner won't turn it around.
Getting to Holtby early will be key for the Leafs, who can't afford to let the Capitals goalie settle in on the road.
Game 3 is 7 p.m. Monday. "Dart Guy" will be there.
Here's the rest of this series schedule:
Wednesday, April 19, 7pm: Capitals @ Maple Leafs | CBC, TVA Sports, NBCSN
*Friday, April 21, TBD: Maple Leafs @ Capitals | TBD
*Sunday, April 23, TBD: Capitals @ Maple Leafs | TBD
*Tuesday, April 25, TBD: Maple Leafs @ Capitals | TBD
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