The opportunity was certainly there for the Toronto Maple Leafs to put the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Washington Capitals on the ropes in their first-round series.
Instead, the Maple Leafs had a bad first period in Game 4, surrendering two goals in the opening 4:34 and then giving up two more goals to Tom Wilson later on to trail 4-1 after 20 minutes.
A mistake at the defensive blue line in the third period led to T.J. Oshie‘s eventual game-winner. Despite another valiant comeback effort, and outshooting Washington 19-3 in the final period, it wasn’t enough this time for the Maple Leafs.
That bad start proved costly for the Maple Leafs, as Washington evened the series 2-2.
“We weren’t very good,” said Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock. “We weren’t ready to play. They were more competitive than us at the start.
“I thought they won all the battles and all the races. I thought they were quicker today. I thought we looked slow and I thought they looked fast.”
Through four games of this series, the Maple Leafs have been incredibly pesky — even tonight, they scored in the final minute to once again pull within a goal and give their fans one last gasp of hope of possibly tying it and forcing overtime for a fourth straight game.
That is of no consolation.
Because as young and inexperienced as the Maple Leafs are compared to their opponent, the chance to put the Capitals down 3-1 as this series shifts back to Washington was there for the taking.
“Well, we don’t think we’re hanging with them. We want to be in the driver’s seat,” said defenseman Morgan Rielly.
“It’s playoffs. I don’t think they should be putting us away. I think we feel like we can come out and control the game. It’s not about hanging on and trying to squeak one out. It’s about controlling the play … and going out and winning the game.”