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Pressure on Maple Leafs in final weekend of National Hockey League season

Pressure on Maple Leafs in final weekend of National Hockey League season

When Mike Babcock gathers his players on Tuesday to begin preparing in earnest for the Washington Capitals, the Maple Leafs head coach will cut through the rhetoric and give a simple message.

Connor Brown deflected a shot from Jake Gardiner over the glove of Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury with 2:48 left in the third period to give Toronto a 4-3 lead, and Auston Matthews scored his 40th goal of the season into an empty net with four seconds left for the final tally.

"We're not very happy with the way we played [Thursday night] but we have a chance to go out [Saturday night], win a big game, and then we have another chance to win and be in a great spot", Leafs defenceman Morgan Rielly said.

After wrapping up their second consecutive Presidents' Trophy, the Capitals could still face the Maple Leafs, Bruins, Senators, Lightning or Islanders in the first round.

TORONTO (AP) — There will be no Battle of Ontario in the first round of the National Hockey League playoffs.

A regulation loss sends the Maple Leafs to Washington and the brutal Metropolitan Division side of the draw and the Bruins to Ottawa.

"But to be honest with you, I didn't know the kids could be this good", Babcock said. "We're going to find out that it's way different than regular-season hockey". Another handful, including Gardiner, Nazem Kadri, and Tyler Bozak, have just a single playoff series under their belts, that one coming during the Leafs last playoff appearance in 2013. No points, and it's the Stanley Cup favorite Capitals in round one.

Blue Jackets defenseman Zach Werenski missed his third straight game with a shoulder injury Saturday but is expected to be ready for the playoffs. The pressure is still on the Bolts to repeat their feat tomorrow in Montreal or they're done, which would open the last playoff portal for the Isles.

It wasn't the smoothest effort that got them into the post-season, Brown's late goal saving the club from defeat against a Penguins squad that had Sidney Crosby, Kessel and few other regulars - Pittsburgh opting to rest a handful of players ahead of the playoffs. "It's obviously a tough hill to climb, and we need a lot of things to go our way".

Toronto leads the league in first period goals (85), but for the second time in a week they were scoreless after 20 minutes. Joonas Korpisalo stopped 30 shots for the Jackets, who are set for a first-round matchup against Pittsburgh.

The Senators defeated the Boston Bruins 2-1 in a shootout, giving them a 96-95 edge in points over Boston.

The Lightning when leading after two periods are an outstanding 24-3-1, while the Leafs when trailing after two periods are miserable 3-20-3.

Head coach Mike Sullivan didn't specify who would sit for the Penguins on Saturday evening, but confirmed that Crosby would indeed be in the lineup in a crucial game for the hometown Leafs. "For us older guys we've got a chance to win and for the youngest guys they battle for it right away". Toronto can clinch the final Eastern Conference playoff spot with a win.

The Maple Leafs said they will know more about Andersen's status Sunday.

The Leafs had an extra bounce to their step early against Columbus, fresh off the clinching victory over Pittsburgh.

James van Riemsdyk has been on a tear these past two games. Fellow forward Bryan Rust has three tallies in his last five contests and scored and set up a goal in the first meeting with Toronto. Calvert got the first with a weak backhand between McElhinney's pads, Anderson followed up off the rush and Atkinson got the go-ahead marker short-handed.


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