Leafs fall to Columbus, now face Capitals in playoffs

Their opponent - the Maple Leafs - won't be a pushover, however, with playoff positioning on the line for Toronto.

The Air Canada Centre crowd wanted to go home celebrating a playoff spot.

The NHL playoff picture with the regular season ending Sunday: --- WHO'S IN EAST: The Toronto Maple Leafs' loss to Columbus sends them to Washington to face the Presidents' Trophy-winning Capitals on the brutal Metropolitan Division side of the draw.

"We made it way harder than we should", Babcock said of Thursday's effort, as both injury-mauled Tampa and the New York Islanders closed to within three points for what's now the last undecided playoff spot in the NHL's two conferences. "We're looking forward to playing in the playoffs and we have a good challenge ahead of us", said James van Riemsdyk, who scored both of Toronto's goals. Now, rookies Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander have them back to the postseason. "Be careful who you are picking".

"It's fun to talk about the kids because everyone thinks they are going to get better, but we wouldn't be here without good veterans leading the way", Babcock said.

The Leafs and Capitals will play Game 1 at 7 p.m. Thursday in Washington.

It wasn't the smoothest effort that got them into the postseason. The Capitals had the NHL's best regular-season record for the second straight season, loaded at every position as they bid for a first Stanley Cup.

"If I'm really honest, maybe not", Komarov said. "What the result's going to be, I don't know, but this team's going to have some fun". We've got lots of energy.

But Toronto blew a 2-0 lead and lost 3-2 to Columbus. They have all had these opportunities at different levels, just not at this level.

Buckle up: They've drawn the powerhouse Washington Capitals in the organization's first playoff series since 2013.

The Bolts have gone 7-1-1 in their last nine games.

Babcock did not want to discuss what he told his youngsters but he did have an opinion on how they could lessen their anxiety - avoid the sports media. That's when it's a totally different program. "For us older guys we've got a chance to win and for the youngest guys they battle for it right away". "We've got two years left before that happens".

But most of the current Maple Leafs head into a make-or-break end to the regular season with little to no big-game National Hockey League experience under their belts.

"Obviously, he's been the heart and soul of this team playing the amount of games that he has so far", said Curtis McElhinney, who replaced Andersen against the Penguins.

The Leafs had an extra bounce to their step early against Columbus, fresh off the clinching victory over Pittsburgh.

The Blue Jackets have nothing to play for tomorrow, as they're locked into a first-round match-up with Pittsburgh and can't overtake them to get home ice.

RED WINGS 4, DEVILS 1: Riley Sheahan had two goals and Henrik Zetterberg scored in his 1,000th National Hockey League game, helping Detroit win at home in a party-like atmosphere for the final game at Joe Louis Arena. 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 eventually left that game against the Buffalo Sabres and missed the following start with an undisclosed upper-body injury. This is the group which needs to lead the Maple Leafs and keep them steady enough to pull off an upset.

Vanessa Coleman

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