Published: Thu, April 20, 2017
Sport | By Ellis Neal

Capitals D Karl Alzner sits out Game 3 with upper-body injury

Capitals D Karl Alzner sits out Game 3 with upper-body injury

This isn't a stretch of a response from Trotz by any means.

When Matthews scored 12 minutes into the third period, the Leafs were down a goal and the crowd went bonkers, inspired by the idea of a complete comeback. The Leafs have flipped the script. The Capitals smothered the Leafs, holding 15-6 lead in shots on goal and getting in the faces of the Leafs each time a Toronto played looked up.

But a take-charge shift by Nazem Kadri and Leo Komarov changed the tone of the game.

Through three games in this series, the two teams have been tied at the end of regulation time in each game. That familiar playoff pressure that follows the perennially underperforming Capitals has emerged earlier than usual.

Babcock wanted his team to be prepared for what the young Oilers, then leading their series 2-1, got from the veteran Sharks a night before.

Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Evgeny Kuznetsov scored for the Presidents' Trophy-winning Capitals.

Interestingly enough, Matthews actually fared better on the road during the regular season (24 goals, 40 points) than he did at home (16, 29).

Over the past two years, in response to repeated playoff flameouts, the Capitals were refitted as a team that could defend as tenaciously as it could dangle the puck on a string. Maybe it happens with their backs against the wall here. "We had a nice power play to start this overtime and we want to go in with the attitude to get it done, even though the power-play hadn't been running well (it was about to go 0-for-3 when Bozak scored)". "Sometimes, that's situational. Sometimes, that's the zone starts". "If I'm Trotz, I get my superstar out there". Look for them to continue doing what they have been doing. "You sort of miss a rep or two here or there". "It wasn't based on play".

Babcock will now have control of the matchups on home ice, meaning he can move Matthews away from the unsafe Kuznetsov if he so chooses and also get his pick of which defensive pair the group will see most often.

The defence picture aside, the Leafs are ready to make an impact in this series on home ice. The Leafs remain the plucky kids with everything to learn and nothing to lose. Of course they would push back. The Leafs gained zone entry, cycled the puck, got traffic in front of the net and outworked the Capitals until they were able to get the puck towards the net.

The Caps and Leafs are now tied 1-1 heading into their contest at the Air Canada Centre. "In order to get into the playoffs, you have to be playing elite hockey".

Like the Wild and Blackhawks, the Flames are trying to join the elite company of the four teams that have come back to win a series when trailing 3-0. "You know what, it's fun to win in Toronto for sure". Most series end up being a battle. "He played hard. He went to the net". "They were more competitive than us at the start".

Dubnyk's best save of the night came on a Joel Edmundson break early in the third period.

T.J. Oshie also scored two goals for the Capitals, who built a 4-1 lead after one periods. I thought they were quicker today. "They're going to be preparing to beat us in Washington, and we've got to do the same thing". I know it's going to probably hit him.

The Maple Leafs haven't been afraid to finish their checks on the Capitals. Matthews and Nylander became the first rookies to score in the same mid-April game since Wendel Clark and Steve Thomas in 1986, the year Toronto upset first-place Chicago in the Norris Division best-of-five.

Toronto coach Mike Babcock sensed his group gaining confidence after almost taking Game 1 at Washington.

Between the stress of high-pressure games, necessitated morning skates, hours of back-and-forth travel, tactical analysis, and continued prodding from the media, the demands put on the bodies and minds of players tests the limits of human functioning. "He's ultra competitive, moves the puck, good on the penalty kill, good on the power play, so an important guy for us".

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