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Penguins at Maple Leafs

21 April 2017

It makes no difference in their life, but we've got to come out and play right and get prepared and play as hard as we possibly can.

Kessel smiled with no shame after his shot beat Frederik Andersen to the far post.

Coming on some since midway through the first, the Jackets came charging back with three goals in less than seven minutes.

Auston Matthews ended the season with 69 points, the most among National Hockey League rookies.

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"It means everything", Matthews said of making the playoffs in his first season in the National Hockey League. "[Now] we're playing a real good team". They'll face the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins in Round 1.

Basically, if things are going to go wrong for the Leafs, it will play out in agonizingly slow fashion, like the Ghost of Wade Dubielewicz just walked through that door.

Backup Curtis McElhinney then entered the game.

What did you think of the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-2 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Sunday night?

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The Andersen injury is a potential major concern for obvious reasons: Without him and what he has done in the regular season, the Leafs wouldn't have been fighting for a playoff spot on the final weekend of the 2016-17 schedule. It's likely Andersen is going through the NHL's concussion protocol.

He's also among the few Leafs to play in the post-season previously, including last year when he posted a.947 save percentage in five starts for Anaheim. In the past we would see Gardiner string together a few bad games in a row, but he's been very consistent this season and has arguably been Toronto's best defenceman.

Then there was Kasperi Kapanen, his first National Hockey League goal and point a few minutes earlier tying the game at three. The teams exchanged power-play goals early in the second period.

Crosby's power-play goal tied the score at 2 at 7:55, and it's one he's practiced often. He's the first player since Alex Ovechkin to hit that mark in his debut season. Toronto got out to a 3-0 lead after a goal from Matthews, and though Washington rallied with two goals in the third period, the team didn't handle Toronto's speed well and was called for five minor penalties. At this point, it looks as though that will be Sunday against the New York Rangers, which is good for the Leafs. Columbus was resting several of its major players, including Seth Jones, Alexander Wennberg and Zach Werenski is still out with an injury, so the opportunity for Toronto to take advantage of a depleted lineup was right there. With Nikita Zaitsev serving a minor for delay of game, Crosby buried a pass from Guentzel. That gave the youthful Maple Leafs three goals in the final 5:30 of the third period. There were nights of futility certainly, including against Crosby and Henrik Zetterberg, and he got hammered in the faceoff circle (46.8 percent), but generally Matthews held his own while leading all Leaf forwards in garnering nearly 18 minutes of ice time per night. His two goals on Sunday put him at 62 points for the season, setting a new career-high. The play that led to the goal served as an excellent example of van Riemsdyk's hand-eye coordination, as he managed to bat the puck down at the blue line and stay onside prior to making a move to his forehand and scoring.

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It's the type of play Penguins coach Mike Sullivan has been trying to coax out of Kessel for weeks: Don't think, just shoot.