Young Maple Leafs now face ultimate challenge: The Washington Capitals

That became a fact on Sunday when the Leafs failed to get a point against the Columbus Blue Jackets at the Air Canada Centre, losing 3-2 before a crowd of 19,369.

The Capitals will face the Bruins or the Maple Leafs. Nazem Kadri is one of the most underrated centers and one of the most effective agitators in the National Hockey League.

The Toronto Maple Leafs saved themselves a tense final game of the season when they came back to defeat the Pittsburgh Penguins 5-3 on Saturday night to clinch a playoff spot. "But, to be honest with you, I didn't know the kids could be this good". "We're going to find out that it's way different than regular-season hockey". Columbus was resting several of its major players, including Seth Jones, Alexander Wennberg and Zach Werenski is still out with an injury, so the opportunity for Toronto to take advantage of a depleted lineup was right there. The mostly steady goaltending of Frederik Andersen - who was injured against Pittsburgh - helped, as did career years from Nazem Kadri, Jake Gardiner and Tyler Bozak.

Babcock, perhaps not surprisingly, plans to spend lots of time before Thursday's opener in D.C. detailing for his group what exactly is different about playoff hockey.

"They're not going to believe me and then it's going to happen", he said.

It's expected the first two games of the Ottawa series would be on Wednesday and Saturday, while Games 1 and 2 versus Washington would be Thursday and Saturday. "So they came out hard and got a couple of good breaks and it is what it is". Toronto still holds a three-point lead with a pair of home games remaining against the Pittsburgh Penguins and Columbus Blue Jackets, two teams that are locked into their respective seeds and have nothing to play for. 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. "What the result's going to be, I don't know, but this team's going to have some fun. We have to go back to the drawing board and get re-energized". Washington launched 38 shots at goaltender Curtis McElhinney, defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk scored his first goal with the team on a power play in the second period and the team's depth shined with Tom Wilson and Lars Eller scoring.

Had they earned even a point, the Leafs would have faced the Ottawa Senators in the first round, but instead get the Presidents' Trophy-winning Capitals.

- The Flames can ensure they don't face the Blackhawks in the first round by beating the Sharks in regulation or overtime Saturday.

Jake Gardiner played a game-high of nearly 29 minutes with the blue line shorthanded, the Leafs late comeback effort falling just short. "They've done a good job". "For us older guys we've got a chance to win and for the youngest guys they battle for it right away".

Matthews became only the fourth rookie under 20 in National Hockey League history to score 40 goals, with his 40th into an empty net sealing the Leafs' wild, playoff-clinching win over Pittsburgh.

James van Riemsdyk scored two goals in 4 minutes and 33 seconds. But MoneyPuck has the Leafs 1.2 points ahead this morning. Fellow forward Bryan Rust has three tallies in his last five contests and scored and set up a goal in the first meeting with Toronto. 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.

Vanessa Coleman

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