- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 13, 2017

The weight of the Presidents’ Trophy rides around with the Washington Capitals. They are the top seed trying to shed playoff failures of the past, a team again covered in expectations as the NHL playoffs start.

Toronto is as close to expectation-free as a hockey team based there could be. Auston Matthews heads its group of young, speedy players that spent the end of the regular season pushing for a playoff spot. The Maple Leafs have been desperate and driving for two weeks. A win April 8 against the Pittsburgh Penguins moved Toronto into the playoffs for the first time since 2013.

Those regular-season stances — and past postseason hauntings from the Capitals — have added tension as a weapon for the Maple Leafs. They tried to use it Thursday. After a 2-0 lead turned into a 3-2 overtime loss in Game 1, Toronto will try to recapture it Saturday.

“Our big thing is we got to get a game here, because we got to keep it tight so they stay tight,” Toronto coach Mike Babcock said. “If they get too loose, it will make it too easy for them.”

Mitchell Marner’s goal just 1:35 into the game leveraged some angst onto the Capitals. Jake Gardiner’s goal put Toronto in front 2-0 less than 10 minutes into the game. Washington coach Barry Trotz said they did not panic despite the pressure of trailing. Toronto was energized.

“It was a fun game,” Maple Leafs goaltender Frederik Andersen said. “It wasn’t the end result we wanted but we played really good and we showed we can play with these guys. It was a good game for us, but obviously you don’t get a win for that so we have to come back and play the same way and better.”

Andersen’s glove was significant in helping Toronto prove it could be a pest as the severe underdog. He made multiple stops when whipping his left hand through the air at oncoming pucks, piling up 41 saves. Washington’s game-tying goal came when Andersen lost track of the puck between his pads and Justin Williams found it before he did.

“It hit my stick a little weird and I thought it was going to hit the netting,” Andersen said. “I lost track of it and it ended up laying right there. That was a tough bounce but you look to rebound and come back and give the team a chance to win.”

The game-winner was a puck finally zipped past his tough-to-crack glove side from Tom Wilson.

“I think what they found out tonight is they can skate with them, you can be physical,” Babcock said. “They’re a team that gives the puck back to you when your physical, just like when they’re physical with us. It’s important to get a taste and understand what the game’s like, what it feels like. Now, it’s important that we leave here 1-1.”

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