And with the Maple Leafs desperate to secure their first postseason spot since 2013 and just their second since 2006, a Kessel goal conjured old uneasiness in the arena to go with the present uncertainty about playoff chances. "But, to be honest with you, I didn't know the kids could be this good". Anything less than a trip to the Stanley Cup final is a bust for the Capitals. Columbus will likely rest some of their starters in preparation for the postseason, but fans would no doubt feel more comfortable if they pulled off a victory.
Babcock said he expected Andersen to practice Monday and be ready for Game 1 of the playoffs against either Washington or Ottawa. "So they came out hard and got a couple of good breaks and it is what it is".
However, the regular season itself isn't quite finished yet, and though the Bruins aren't playing, Sunday's game is a huge one: Blue Jackets at Maple Leafs. I hate to sound negative, but I think everyone, including the Leafs, would have preferred to play the Senators and attempt to go through the Atlantic side of the bracket. For Morgan Rielly, a fourth-year player who has seen more downs than ups in a Leafs sweater, it was reminiscent of the feeling at Rogers Centre for Jose Bautista's bat-flip in the 2015 ALDS.
Curtis McElhinney made 29 saves, but Toronto let a 2-0 lead melt away in a porous second period.
At 11:50, right winger Nikita Kucherov danced around three Leafs defenders and fired a quick wrister that beat Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen for his 39th goal to give the Lightning a 2-1 lead. Joonas Korpisalo stopped 30 shots for the Jackets, set for a first-round series with Pittsburgh.
If the Maple Leafs fail to get at least a point against the Blue Jackets, they will play the President's Cup champion Washington Capitals in the first round. With rookie wunderkinds Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner in tow, this Toronto team just felt different to the ones from years past. If they lose in regulation, they will face the Washington Capitals.
Murray loses to Ramos-Vinolas at Monte Carlo Masters
Murray was in big trouble at 0-40 in game nine, but ultimately held his nerve - and serve - to break his losing streak. But sitting here, being 4-Love up in the third, I haven't lost many matches like that in my career.
- The Capitals have gone 7-1 in their last eight games against the Maple Leafs.
The Leafs will no doubt play hard to try and avoid playing the best team in the National Hockey League. That's when it's a totally different program. "We've got two years left before that happens". They have a two-point edge over the Toronto Maple Leafs, who are clinging to the No. 2 wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. On Sunday morning, however, Babcock said that while Andersen was not exhibiting concussion symptoms, he would not dress for the game.
The Leafs had an extra bounce to their step early against Columbus, fresh off the clinching victory over Pittsburgh.
BLUES 3, AVALANCHE 2: Vladimir Tarasenko got a go-ahead goal 19 seconds after Vladimir Sobotka scored in his first National Hockey League game in three years, lifting St. Louis at home.
The Leafs got on the board early in the middle frame, van Riemsdyk scoring the first of his two goals on the night. It also marked a turning point in Holtby's season. Calvert got the first with a weak backhand between McElhinney's pads, Anderson followed up off the rush, Atkinson notching the go-ahead marker shorthanded. He set a Leafs rookie record for minutes this season. Defenseman Gabriel Carlsson, the Blue Jackets' first-round draft pick in 2015, made his National Hockey League debut Saturday. D John Carlson will miss the Capitals' game at Boston on Saturday with a lower-body injury.