Kapanen ties series with double OT winner

Kasperi Kapanen scored at 11:53 of the second overtime period to give the Maple Leafs a 4-3 win in double overtime Saturday night. Toronto evened its first round series against the Washington Capitals at one game apiece heading back to Air Canada Centre for Games Three and Four.

Ultimately a pair of factors tipped the seesaw game in favour of the blue and white: Stellar play from the fourth line. And, a bounce-back game from Frederik Andersen.

The forward unit of Kapanen, Brian Boyle and Matt Martin wasn’t a mere one-hit wonder on this night. Rather, the energetic trio used a strong cycle game to pester the Capitals defenders whenever it was on the ice. It was finally rewarded just past the midway mark of the fifth period.

Martin and Boyle continued to pressure the defence in the Washington zone, and Boyle recovered the puck behind the goal line. He fed Kapanen with a laser-sharp diagonal backhand pass from behind the net where an opportunistic Kapanen made no mistake with an open cage to shoot at.

The 20-year-old Finn grabbed the spotlight for the second time in as many weeks. In the Leafs’ penultimate game of the regular season, against the Pittsburgh Penguins, Kapanen fired the game-tying goal that sparked a Toronto rally en route to clinching a playoff berth.

The burgeoning Leafs has done well to pad his resume in the past week, adding to a list of accolades that includes scoring the overtime winner for his native Finland in the 2016 World Junior championship game.

A humble Kapanen shared the spotlight with his linemates, when addressing the media at Verizon Center following the game.

“All the credit has to go to [Martin] and [Boyle] for working hard in the corner there and I think one of their D-men lost their stick there and I was yelling for it because I had a clear lane,” he said. “Boyler made an amazing pass so I got to put it in the empty net,” he said.

The Leafs defence suffered a devastating loss after Roman Polak fell on his right leg following a knee-on-knee collision initiated by Washington’s Brooks Orpik. Toronto coach Mike Babcock confirmed that Polak’s season is over.

Toronto’s blue line corps was full measure for logging extra minutes in the double overtime marathon. Morgan Rielly, Jake Gardiner, Matt Hunwick and Martin Marincin each played thirty minutes or more. Gardiner was the workhorse on this day, registering 40:34 in time on ice.

Kapanen had a two-goal effort. James van Riemsdyk and Morgan Rielly each collected their first goal of the post-season.

Between the pipes, Andersen showed no rust as a result of the backbreaking overtime goal he surrendered two nights earlier. The Leafs’ netminder made 47 saves and gave his team the opportunity for the victory. Most notably, Andersen stood square in denying Alex Ovechkin, speeding out of the penalty box on a breakaway as Mitch Marner also diligently backchecked on the play.

As for the blue line, Babcock stated that Alexey Marchenko will play, in the event that Nikita Zaitsev is not ready to return from injury.