WASHINGTON — Toronto native Tom Wilson scored his first NHL playoff goal 5:15 into overtime and the Washington Capitals survived a scare to beat the Maple Leafs 3-2 on Thursday night in Game 1 of their first-round series.
The top-seeded Capitals came back from a two-goal deficit to take the early lead in the series and at least momentarily stop the panic about a slip-up. Justin Williams scored twice in regulation, and Washington showed it could handle the adversity of falling behind.
Braden Holtby was up to the task in goal, stopping 35 of the 37 shots he faced. Toronto counterpart Frederik Andersen was arguably the best player on the ice with 41 saves before being beaten by Wilson with an absurd shot on the winner.
Mitch Marner and Jake Gardiner scored in the first period for Toronto, back in the playoffs for the first time since 2013.
Game 2 is Saturday night in Washington.
The Maple Leafs lost when leading by multiple goals again after doing so an NHL-high eight times during the regular season.
Showing no fear of the playoff stage or their opponent, the Maple Leafs took the play right to the Capitals in the first few shifts. Strong work by James van Riemsdyk following his own shot and centering the puck off the post to Marner gave the Maple Leafs the lead just 1:35 in to stun the Presidents’ Trophy winners and the crowd.
“There’s nothing like a bunch of fans that got long faces and sitting on their hands and are nervous like you can’t believe,” Toronto coach Mike Babcock said.
Uncharacteristic turnovers and blunders by the Capitals compounded the situation as fans yelled for them to “wake up.” Instead of waking up, Washington fell behind 2-0 at 9:44 on Gardiner’s goal that was originally waved off for goaltender interference but challenged by Babcock and won.
The first 10 minutes made for one of the Capitals’ worst stretches of the season, though they got on the board with Williams’ power-play goal 2 seconds after a 5-on-3 power play turned back into a 5-on-4 at 12:24 and had a stronger second half of the period. Though the Maple Leafs kept up the pressure in the second, Andersen lost the puck between his skates and Williams poked it in at the 16-minute mark to tie the score at 2.
Holtby and Andersen went save for save the rest of regulation, flashing their gloves to send the game to overtime.
NOTES: Capitals D John Carlson returned after missing the final four regular-season games with a lower-body injury. … Maple Leafs D Nikita Zaitsev was out with a lower-body injury. … Washington and Toronto are meeting in a playoff series for the first time. … F Brett Connolly was the only Capitals player making his playoff debut. … Marner is the first Toronto rookie to score a playoff goal since Jeff Farkas in 2000. … Washington has won eight in a row at home against Toronto and eight of the teams’ past nine meetings.
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