So much at stake for the Caps, who need to ‘change the narrative,’ and fast

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Three games into the postseason and the Washington Capitals are already fighting for their playoff lives.

And who among us expected that?

Not many, but that’s the deal for the Presidents’ Trophy-winners, against the team that finished dead last only a year ago.

Lose tonight at Air Canada Centre and the Caps will trail the Toronto Maple Leafs, 3-1.

Lose tonight and the Caps will be one loss away from one of the most stunning letdowns in NHL playoff history.

Watch Capitals vs. Maple Leafs: Game 4 on Wednesday (7 p.m. ET on NBCSN, NBC Sports app)

And the way things have gone so far, nobody should be surprised if they do lose. Because this is not another Jaroslav Halak situation. The young, dynamic Leafs have gone blow-for-blow with the mighty Caps. They’ve used their speed and their skill. They’ve proven they belong.

“It’s a lot closer match than people let on,” Washington head coach Barry Trotz told reporters. “It’s not David versus Goliath. They’re a good team. They wouldn’t be here if they weren’t.”

Trotz himself is under considerable pressure after failing to get Alex Ovechkin enough ice time in Game 3. The reigning Jack Adams Award winner is 2-2 in playoff series with the Caps. And in spite of all the success he’s enjoyed in the regular season, if he goes 2-3, it would be fair to debate his future behind the bench.

The Leafs, meanwhile, can’t get too comfortable. They saw what happened to the Edmonton Oilers last night in San Jose. It was a good warning.

“There’s two parts to that equation,” said head coach Mike Babcock. “One team relaxes and feels pretty good about themselves, talks to everybody and they all tell you how great they’re doing and the other team gets prepared. We talked about that after Game 1, after Game 2 and we’ll continue to talk about it. It’s so important that you get off to a good start here tonight and prepare to compete. They’re going to compete. We have to compete.”

The real pressure, though, is on the Capitals. In the second year of what their general manager has called a “two-year window,” 2017 was shaping up to be their time. A first-round matchup with the inexperienced Leafs. No Kris Letang for the Pittsburgh Penguins. A beatable opponent whoever comes out of the Atlantic bracket. Ditto for whoever comes out of the West.

The Caps, of course, already have a reputation for flopping in the playoffs. But losing to the Leafs would take it to a whole new level.

Are they really going to flop again?

“Until we change the narrative, that’s going to be the question,” defenseman Matt Niskanen said. “It’s up to us to change it. You can’t talk about it. You just have to go and do it.”

Video: Tanner Glass (!) scores first goal of 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs

If you expected Tanner Glass to score the first goal of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs … your name might be Alain Vigneault.

Seriously, more than a few jaws dropped as the enforcer scored a stunning – and stunningly nice – goal against Carey Price to give the New York Rangers a 1-0 lead against the Montreal Canadiens.

It’s only his second postseason tally and Glass only had one goal in 2016-17. His inclusion in the Rangers lineup is almost always the source of derision among stats-minded fans … so this is likely to prompt some amusing banter on Twitter.

Watch Rangers vs. Canadiens on NBC Sports

Watch the goal in the video above.

Check it out in GIF form, too:

This actually breaks a pattern of fairly well-known players scoring a postseason’s first goal. Nikita Kucherov started the fun last year and Brock Nelson notched the first tally of 2015. Remarkably, neither player is even in the 2017 postseason.

Things got a little chippy to start Rangers – Canadiens, by the way.

Doug Weight officially named head coach of the Islanders

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The New York Islanders didn’t make the playoffs this season, but they’re clearly happy with the work interim coach Doug Weight did after he took over for Jack Capuano.

On Wednesday morning, the Islanders officially removed the interim tag from Weight’s title and named him head coach of their hockey club.

Since taking over for Capuano on Jan. 17, Weight and the Islanders posted the second-best record in the NHL with 24 wins and 52 points in 40 games. Unfortunately for them, they still fell one point shy of making the playoffs.

“Doug has earned this opportunity from the tremendous work he has put in over the past five seasons in our front office and especially from the time he took over as interim head coach earlier this season,” president and general manager Garth Snow said in a release. “His leadership and experiences from both playing and behind the bench are valuable intangibles that not every coach can translate into a winning formula. He’s gained the trust and respect from our entire team, making him the best choice to become head coach.”

Weight will continue serving as Garth Snow’s assistant GM.

Now that they’ve made one big decision, the Isles can focus their attention on re-signing franchise center John Tavares and finding a new arena.

Tavares hopeful for extension with Isles, Weight hopeful to return

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Though the offseason is usually filled with various subplots, it’s safe to predict which two will be front and center for the Isles this summer.

The first is the negotiation of captain John Tavares‘ contract.

The second is the decision to keep interim head coach Doug Weight, or go in a different direction.

Under the CBA, Tavares is eligible to sign a new deal with the Isles on July 1. Back at January’s All-Star Game in Los Angeles, the 26-year-old said he was hoping to get something done.

“Yeah, of course. Yeah, for sure,” Tavares said. “I mean, I’ve always stated how much I enjoy playing on Long Island, and the organization, how well they’ve supported me. Obviously, we’ve had some new ownership come in. They’ve brought some real good commitment and show their vision for the future.

“I’m excited about where the Islanders are headed, and hopefully we can work something out.”

Today, he reiterated as much.

Tavares is heading into the last of a six-year, $33 million deal with a $5.5M cap hit. It’s already been suggested he could join Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Anze Kopitar in the $10 million cap hit club, but deals of that magnitude take time to negotiate. Kopitar, you’ll recall, had to wait until January of the final year of his contract before securing an eight-year, $80 million extension from the Kings.

In addition to extension talks, Tavares also touched on Weight today.

“[He] sparked the great finish we had, a lot of guys responded,” No. 91 said, per WRHU Sports. “Have a lot of respect for [Weight].”

The Isles went 24-12-4 after Weight took over from Jack Capuano, and made a furious push for the playoffs. New York’s two big veteran free agent signings, Andrew Ladd and Jason Chimera, seemed to come alive under Weight after struggling to start the campaign under Capuano.

Unsurprisingly, Weight said he really wanted to be back behind the bench next season.

“It’s going to be healthier for us as a franchise and an organization to move forward as quick as we can and figure things out,” Weight said Sunday, per NHL.com. “That’s where I’ll leave that. I’m going to meet with everybody. First of all, no matter where I am, hopefully in this organization somewhere whether it’s here or somewhere else helping this team win, the city, the fans get what they deserve, a consistent winner.

“We’ve got to get the players off and talk about what they have to do in the offseason and talk about this year and to focus on getting off to a good start next year. But I’m going to think everything over, I’m going to talk to my bosses, which I think we all know we have to do, and figure this out.

Goalie Nods: McElhinney gets the start for Leafs

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With Frederik Andersen unavailable for tonight’s regular season finale for the Toronto Maple Leafs, Curtis McElhinney will get the start against his former team, the Columbus Blue Jackets.

He made quite an impact on Saturday night, coming on in relief of Andersen and making a couple of huge saves late in the third period.

As we mentioned this morning this is still a relatively big game for the Maple Leafs. Even though their playoff spot is already clinched, they can still move up in the standings and avoid a first-round matchup with the Washington Capitals. But to do that they have to knock off the Blue Jackets.

McElhinney and the Maple Leafs are going to get a bit of a break on Sunday, not only because Columbus is riding a six-game losing streak, but also because the Blue Jackets have nothing (quite literally) to play for. Their playoff spot has already been locked in place for a week now, and they not only are still without defenseman Zach Werenski, but it also appears that Alex Wennberg, Seth Jones and Scott Hartnell will also be held out of the lineup for precautionary reasons.

The Blue Jackets are preparing for their first-round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Sergei Bobrovsky, perhaps the Vezina Trophy front-runner at this point, will also get the night off.

Joonas Korpisalo will start in net for the Blue Jackets.

Elsewhere on Sunday…

— In the final game at Joe Louis Arena it will be Cory Schneider for the New Jersey Devils going up against Jimmy Howard of the Detroit Red Wings.

Andrei Vasilevskiy will be in net for the Tampa Bay Lightning against the Buffalo Sabres. No word yet from the Sabres on their starter.

Mike Condon gives Craig Anderson a break for the Ottawa Senators in their regular season finale in New York against the Islanders. The Islanders are starting Thomas Greiss.

— It will be Calvin Pickard vs. Jake Allen when the Colorado Avalanche visit the St. Louis Blues.

James Reimer helps the Florida Panthers close out their season when they visit the Washington Capitals. Braden Holtby gets one more tune-up start before the playoffs begin after getting the day off on Saturday.

Eddie Lack will play for the Carolina Hurricanes when they visit the Philadelphia Flyers. The Flyers will start Anthony Stolarz.

— Magnus Hellberg goes for the New York Rangers when they host the Pittsburgh Penguins. No word yet from the Penguins on their starter.

— The Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks have not announced their starters.

Cam Talbot will get a much-needed break for the Edmonton Oilers as Laurent Brossoit gets the start as they have a chance to maybe win the Pacific Division. Talbot will finish with a league-leading 73 starts, seven more than any other goalie in the NHL. The Vancouver Canucks have not announced their starter.