Maple Leafs at Capitals
The Toronto Maple Leafs were able to overcome one sluggish start in the first contest north of the border, but a four-goal first period provided too much of an obstacle as the Washington Capitals evened the Eastern Conference first-round series at two victories apiece. Despite tumbling back to Square One, coach Mike Babcock feels his upstart Maple Leafs should be optimistic heading into Friday's Game 5 against the Presidents' Trophy-winning Capitals at the Verizon Center.
"If you'd told our guys at the start of the series it would be 2-2, they'd all do a cartwheel if they knew how. I couldn't do it, I'd hurt my back," Babcock said on Thursday, just one day removed from his team falling head over heels in the first 20 minutes before succumbing to a 5-4 decision in Game 4. Washington's T.J. Oshie has been providing back-breaking moments for Babcock throughout the series, highlighted by recording his third career postseason multi-goal performance on Wednesday. "I think we got our heads on straight right now on how we want to play and unfortunately it's taken us a couple games to get there," the 30-year-old said. Oshie is riding a six-game playoff point streak (four goals, five assists) dating to last year while fellow forwards Nicklas Backstrom (two goals, three assists) and captain Alex Ovechkin are enjoying three-game point and goal streaks, respectively.
TV: 7 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports2, CSN Mid-Atlantic (Washington)
ABOUT THE MAPLE LEAFS: William Nylander has collected a goal and an assist in consecutive games and fellow rookie Auston Matthews joined Tyler Bozak in scoring in back-to-back contests. Zach Hyman also tallied to give Toronto five rookie goal-scorers to join the 2007-08 New York Rangers as the only teams over the last 25 years of the playoffs to accomplish that feat. Mitch Marner, also a rookie, set up a pair of goals to share top honors in points (four) with Bozak and defenseman Morgan Rielly.
ABOUT THE CAPITALS: Tom Wilson continued to torment his hometown team by tallying twice on Wednesday to increase his goal total to three in the series after mustering just seven in 82 regular-season games. "When you're a kid, you always have big dreams. I was lucky enough to fulfill them," the 23-year-old Wilson said. "It's a huge privilege." Nate Schmidt has provided a bit of offense with an assist in back-to-back contests in the absence of fellow defenseman Karl Alzner (upper body), who was listed as day-to-day by coach Barry Trotz on Thursday.
1. Washington G Braden Holtby is hardly playing like a reigning Vezina Trophy winner with 12 goals allowed, a 3.37 goals-against average and an .897 save percentage in the last three contests.
2. Rielly is riding a three-game point streak (one goal, three assists) while fellow D Jake Gardiner has also chimed in offensively with three points (one goal, two assists) in the series.
3. The Capitals are 4-for-12 on the power play in the series while the Maple Leafs have scored with the man advantage in each of the last three games.