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Marcus Johansson ends Maple Leafs’ season with Game 6 OT winner as Capitals advance

Jonas Siegel, The Canadian Press | posted Monday, Apr 24th, 2017

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A historic Toronto Maple Leafs season has come to an end.

Marcus Johansson stuffed his second goal of the game past Frederik Andersen six and a half minutes into overtime as the Washington Capitals edged the Leafs 2-1 in Game 6 on Sunday night, winning the series 4-2 with five of the six games decided in extra time.

Johansson pulled Washington even at 1-1 with less than eight minutes to go in the third period after Auston Matthews broke a scoreless tie with his fourth goal of the series for Toronto.

Andersen was sharp with 34 saves, equaled by Holtby, who stopped 37-of-38 for the Caps.

Washington will face the Pittsburgh Penguins in the second round for the second straight spring.

The loss ends a memorable season for the Leafs.
History was shattered often in Toronto this season, beginning with Matthews unprecedented four-goal NHL debut and concluding with a teardown of the team’s rookie record book, from goals, assists and points to power-play points and ice-time.

It was all that youth which made for low expectations initially last fall. Even internally, the team was expected only to demonstrate growth after a last-place 2015-16 season, not make the playoffs or push the Presidents’ Trophy winner to six games in the first round.

But youth spurred the Leafs all season-long and again in the post-season against the Caps in a series that saw all six games decided by a goal. Matthews finished with four goals and five points, William Nylander, Morgan Rielly and 19-year-old Mitch Marner all adding four points apiece.

“When you look at where we’ve come from, last year to this year, I think there’s a lot to take pride in,” Rielly said before Game 6.

The Leafs had 10 players make their NHL playoff debuts against Washington. The Caps, by contrast, had only a single player who was appearing in his first post-season: depth winger Brett Connolly.

Experience, or lack thereof, never much mattered in this series, though. Toronto raced out to a 2-0 lead in the first period of Game 1 and kept it close every step of the way against Washington, a team gunning for its first Stanley Cup this spring.

Many members of the Leafs were facing elimination in an NHL post-season for the first time and it looked that way during a nervous first few shifts. But they eventually stabilized and generated the best chances in an opening period where few existed.

Nylander had the two finest looks, both coming off strong work along the boards and down low by fellow rookie Zach Hyman. The Caps had their best chance in the final minute of the first when Alex Ovechkin fired a shot that Andersen struggled initially to locate.

Starting his 34th career playoff game, Andersen settled into truly fine form in the second. He stopped Evgeny Kuznetsov in tight moments into the period and then made his sharpest stop, to that point, with just under 10 minutes gone when he stuck a left pad out on a Justin Williams shot.

Williams, who beat Andersen five-hole to win Game 5 in overtime, was all alone in front as he tried to wait out the 27-year-old at the tail-end of an odd-man rush.

Jake Gardiner nearly scored for the Leafs a few minutes earlier, but his blast from the point pinged off the cross-bar.

From there it was more Andersen.

He stopped Kuznetsov again on a dangerous look and then Andre Burakovsky in the high slot as chants of “Freddy” came from a towel-waving Air Canada Centre crowd, which included Stratford, Ont., native Justin Bieber.

The Leafs actually outshot the Caps 14-11 in the second (and 38-36 overall), but the scariest chances came from the visitors by the end of a scoreless 40 minutes.

Toronto went long stretches without testing Holtby until Rielly dumped a puck into the right corner. Instead of wheeling around the boards, the puck bounced awkwardly into the slot where it was chased down by Matthews. The 19-year-old made no mistake, roofing a shot into the top right corner for the 1-0 lead.

He joined Wendel Clark as the second teenager ever to score a goal in four straight playoff games, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Matthews, who went pointless in the first two games of the series, was the first player picked No. 1 overall by the Leafs since Clark in 1985.

He would later break Clark’s franchise rookie record for goals during the regular season, finishing with 40.

Johansson tied it about five minutes after the Matthews goal, the sequence starting with a Martin Marincin pass that went astray in the neutral zone. The puck found its way to the Caps winger, who fought off Kasperi Kapanen’s pursuits before beating Andersen short-side.

The Leafs had a nervous moment with 72 seconds left in regulation when Nikita Zaitsev inadvertently bumped Andersen in the head. Andersen was forced to leave two starts late in the regular season after taking hits to the head, but he remained in the game for the remainder of the third and 18th overtime of the first round, which set a new NHL record.

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