Capitals-Maple Leafs Game 3 preview: Can Washington regain control of this series?

The Capitals enter Monday’s Game 3 in somewhat of a desperate state. The upstart Maple Leafs gave them a tougher-than-expected test at home over the weekend: The Capitals had to fight hard just to win Game 1 in overtime, and then they lost Game 2 in double overtime. With the series shifting north to Toronto, will the Stanley Cup favorites get back on track? Or is Washington staring down — gulp — yet another postseason disappointment?

Game 3: Washington Capitals (1st place, 55-19-8, 118 points) vs. Toronto Maple Leafs (wild card 2, 40-27-15, 95 points)
Date and time: Monday, 7 p.m.
Channel: CSN
Location: Air Canada Centre, Toronto
Game 1 result: at Capitals 3, Maple Leafs 2 (OT)
Game 2 result: Maple Leafs 4, at Capitals 3 (2OT)
Regular season series: Capitals 2, Maple Leafs 1

Remaining schedule

Game 4: Wednesday in Toronto, 7 p.m. (CSN)
Game 5: Friday in Washington, TBD (CSN)
Game 6 (if necessary): Sunday, April 23, in Toronto, TBD (TBD)
Game 7 (if necessary): Tuesday, April 25, in Washington, TBD (CSN)

Everything you need to know

>> “We’ve been chasing this series a little bit,” Capitals Coach Barry Trotz said after Saturday’s loss. To regain control, one tweak Trotz could make is swapping his top two centers, Nicklas Backstrom and Evgeny Kuznetsov, in an effort to jump start the top line while giving Toronto a different look.

>> The expectation was that the Capitals would have an easy time against the Maple Leafs, who didn’t clinch their postseason berth until the second-to-last game. But to Washington’s credit, it never underestimated the young, feisty Maple Leafs. “I think it’s exactly what we thought it would be coming in,” defenseman Brooks Orpik said.

>> A decade ago, before a trip to Washington carried all kinds of stakes and expectations, the empty, untouched ice made William Nylander feel like a professional hockey player. He was 11 years old then and his father, Michael Nylander, played for the Capitals. “You see those guys doing it. You look up to them, and you think they are so cool,” William Nylander said. “It made me want to get there, and it also made me think it was possible.” That ambition eventually led Nylander to the Maple Leafs, the team now pushing the top-seeded Capitals in the first round.

>> Both teams face questions as the series moves north of the border for Monday’s Game 3. The Leafs lost a second top defenseman when Roman Polak was helped off the ice in the second period with a lower-body injury. But how troubling are the events of Saturday night going to be for the Capitals? They’ve played from behind for much of the series thus far and although they’ve been able to force overtime twice, this is not a safe or comfortable way to live.

>> The Leafs are a bunch of upstarts to be sure. But even though they look to be in good shape heading home for Game 3, their depleted corps of defensemen may spell trouble for them as the series continues to unfold.

>> As mentioned above, the Caps have been living dangerously. It caught up with them in a major way in Game 2 as their bad habits caught up to them. Barry Svrluga takes a look at Washington getting a stiffer test than they bargained for, and what it might expect to find upon arriving in hockey-mad Toronto in the midst of a very competitive series.

>> If you want to relive Game 2, or just reminisce on all there was to like — and dislike — about how the double overtime thriller went down, have a look at our best-worst analysis, where everything from the best marketing ploy to the worst agita to the best (legal) hit can be found.

>> Or maybe you need a distraction from the action on the ice? Meet the Toronto super fan who paints his face with a maple leaf, shaves the Stanley Cup into the top of the head and “GO LEAFS” into the back of his head, and dyes both that hair and the hair on his chin different shades of blue.

>> By the time the Caps won Game 1 in overtime on a top-shelf shot barely under the crossbar by their least likely sniping threat, Tom Wilson, The Post’s Tom Boswell muttered to himself, “Am I really ready for this?” It’s doubtful that he is, and it’s unlikely that many Washingtonians have any idea what we are all in for.

>> The Post’s Dan Steinberg argues that the Capitals actually deserve to win the Stanley Cup this year: “There’s not much more you can say about the most complete Capitals team we’ve ever seen. They had the most points in the NHL this season, the best goal differential, the fewest goals allowed, the most wins at home. They had the best goal differential in the first period, and the best goal differential in the third period. They had 59 points in their first 41 games, and 59 points in their last 41 games. They were the best hockey team out there, and it wasn’t that close.”

>> We all know the decade-long narrative for the Capitals: They’re a talented team that can’t get past the second round. Why is this year different? Here are five reasons to be optimistic about the team’s Stanley Cup chances, and because this is the Capitals, the five reasons to be pessimistic.

Jay Beagle and the Capitals will be looking to take back some momentum that the Maple Leafs are carrying north to Toronto. (John McDonnell / The Washington Post)

Monday Caps Clips: Capitals @ Maple Leafs Game 3 Game Day

Your savory breakfast links:
  • Previews of Game 3 from Vogs, WaPo, NoVa Caps, and as always be sure to visit our SB Nation pals over at Pension Plan Puppets for the other side of tonight's matchup.
  • Barry Trotz and Mike Babcock share a healthy level of respect for one another - but now that they're facing each other, it's game on. [Toronto Star]
  • Tom Wilson is ready and willing to play the villain against his childhood team as the series shifts to TO. [AP]
  • Pundits and fans might have been predicting a short series, but the Caps knew what they were facing in the Leafs. [WaPo, RMNB]
  • That said, with the series tied, they still don't doubt their ability to ultimately come out on top. [Toronto Sun]
  • No skate yesterday, but Trotz spoke to the media via conference call ahead of Game 3. [Monumental video]
  • If they're going to do so, they may need to stop being stubborn and make some changes. [WNST]
  • A few leftovers from Game 2. [Rink Rank, Dump 'n Chase, Peerless]
  • Bad bounces, worse luck... yup, the Caps are back in the playoffs. [RMNB, CSNMA]
  • Facts and figures from the first two games of this series. [PPP]
  • And now from the "Toronto won one game and are now the greatest team ever" side of the media:
  • The loss of Roman Polak leaves a weakened blue line even weaker... [Slam]
  • ...or does it? (Yeah, no, it does.) [Toronto Star]
  • Of course, the return of Nikita Zaitsev would help and that could happen as soon as tonight. [CP, TSN]
  • Speed kills. [ESPN]
  • The Leafs are looking to build on their Game 2 win and take a series lead. [Globe and Mail]
  • Frederik Andersen > Braden Holtby? [CP]
  • A couple of the Leafs rookies have NHL bloodlines that will make all of us feel ancient. [WaPo, News & Observer]
  • Toronto says "thank you, Kessel". [Slam]

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