Toronto Maple Leafs Alex Kerfoot shootout hero against Washington Capitals
By Neil Becker
The Toronto Maple Leafs took a giant step towards locking up the second spot in the Atlantic Division which brings first-round playoffs home-ice advantage.
On Sunday night the Leafs finished off their three-game road swing in style as they came from behind to force overtime before defeating the Washington Capitals in a seven-round shootout by a 4-3 score.
Emerging as the eventual shootout hero was forward Alexander Kerfoot who scored the winner between Capitals goalie Vitek Vanecek’s legs.
Toronto, who leads the Tampa Bay Lightning by five points for second in the division hold destiny in their own hands as they just need to earn one point in their remaining two regular-season games to clinch second and first-round home-ice advantage. Those last two regular-season games are against the Detroit Red Wings and Boston Bruins.
In the opening round, Toronto will be playing either the back-to-back Stanley Cup champions Tampa Bay Lightning or the Bruins.
Looking to salvage a win on this three-game road trip the Leafs got off on the wrong foot as forward T.J. Oshie gave Washington a 1-0 lead when at 5:34 of the first he scored his 11th goal on a snapshot over Leafs goalie Erik Kallgren’s shoulder.
However, the Leafs would get that one back as forward Mitch Marner inched closer to the 100-point mark by registering point number 97 on an assist as he set up Ilya Lyubushkin who at 12:32 scored his second goal to tie things up.
The second period saw two goals being called back. First, the Leafs Jason Spezza appeared to have scored his 12th goal and 994 career point, but the goal was called back due to an offside. Later on, Oshie appeared to have given the Capitals a lead only to have it called back due to a glove pass.
Following a scoreless second period, the Capitals took quick control as they scored consecutive goals just over a minute apart. Scoring first was forward Lars Eller who at the 3:32 mark scored his 13th which was followed by Marcus Johansson with his ninth to give Washington a seemingly comfortable 3-1 lead.
Perhaps one of the most pleasant surprises on the Leafs has been the production from Russian forward Ilya Mikheyev who started the comeback when in the third he had the puck behind the Capitals net before circling the zone and at the 12:36 mark firing home his 20th goal to make it a one-goal game.
The comeback would be complete when with the goalie pulled and the Leafs pressuring, Spezza with 58 seconds remaining stuffed home his 12th goal to force overtime.
After a scoreless overtime, it was on to the shootout where Washington’s first shooter Evgeny Kuznetsov and Leafs shooter Spezza both scored.
The goalies shut the door after that as Leafs shooters Auston Matthews, William Nylander, Mikheyev, Marner, and Engvall were denied.
Meanwhile, Cap shooters Nicklas Backstrom, Oshie, Anthony Mantha, John Carlson, Marcus Johansson, and Trevor van Riemsdyk were also blanked.
Kerfoot would eventually score to solidify the two points for Toronto and their lone win on a three-game road trip which saw them lose 8-1 in Tampa Bay and 3-2 in overtime against the Florida Panthers.
The Leafs next to last regular-season game is on Tuesday with a 7 p.m. opening faceoff at Scotiabank Arena against the Detroit Red Wings.
Note- During the third-period Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin was injured and didn’t return after crashing into the endboards after accidentally getting tripped up following a breakaway.
Also Leafs captain John Tavares didn’t play.
1st Period TOR – WSH
5:34 T.J. Oshie (11) 0 – 1
Anthony Mantha (13)
12:32 Ilya Lyubushkin (2) 1 – 1
Mitch Marner (62), Auston Matthews (45)
3rd. Period TOR – WSH
3:32 Lars Eller (13) 1 – 2
Martin Fehervary (8), John Carlson (54)
4:40 Marcus Johansson (9) 1 – 3
Conor Sheary (24), Justin Schultz (19)
12:36 Ilya Mikheyev (20) 2 – 3
Carl Dahlstrom (2), Pierre Engvall (19)
19:02 Jason Spezza (12) 3 – 3
Ilya Mikheyev (11), Auston Matthews (46)
1. Evgeny Kuznetsov Washington– Goal
1. Jason Spezza Toronto – Goal
2. Nicklas Backstrom Washington- No Goal
2. Auston Matthews Toronto- No Goal
3. T.J. Oshie Washington- No Goal
3. William Nylander Toronto- No Goal
4. Anthony Mantha Washington- No Goal
4. Ilya Mikheyev Toronto- No Goal
5. John Carlson Washington- No Goal
5. Mitch Marner Toronto- No Goal
6. Marcus Johansson Washington No Goal
6. Pierre Engvall Toronto No Goal
7. Trevor van Riemsdyk Washington No Goal
7. Alex Kerfoot Toronto GOAL