But it wasn't quite good enough.
A 3-2 overtime loss in game 1, with Toronto native and fourth line rogue Tom Wilson supplying the victor at 5:15 after he cut off a Martin Marincin clearing attempt.
Toronto Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins players shake hands after overtime in Game 7 of their NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoff series in Boston, Monday, May 13, 2013.
Toronto will be hard-pressed to stop everyone, including Evgeny Kuznetsov (59 points), Marcus Johansson (58), and long-time playoff hero Justin Williams (24 goals), not to mention Daniel Winnik, Lars Eller and Andre Burakovsky.
It was a long shot that seemed to catch Andersen off-guard and drifted into the top corner.
Braden Holtby had a 2.07 GAA while stopping 92.5 percent of the shots he faced.
"I think what they found out tonight is that you can skate with them", Maple Leafs Coach Mike Babcock said. "I think the big thing with them is don't give them any freebies". The game-winner capped a rally by Washington after they fell into a 2-0 deficit early in the game.
"It was a confidence builder for sure". "I liked our game". We had so many opportunities to shoot and we wouldn't, we wanted to pass. "That's playoff hockey. Things bounce". "I think it erases any doubts, if the kids had it". The Leafs blew a 2-0 lead in a 3-2 loss, which dropped them into the second wild card and a first-round matchup with the Capitals - the best team in the league. He matched up against first lines, killed penalties and quarterbacked one power play unit.
The Capitals took home a much-needed Game 1 win and momentum boost, and will look to come back stronger at home on Saturday.
"We have a diverse group of people, and you have to include Kyle (assistant GM Dubas) in that group, who work well together, who come from different views of the game and different backgrounds". "The building had a lot of excitement in it. It's definitely an exciting atmosphere and fun to play in".
Less than two minutes into the game, Maple Leafs forward Mitch Marner scored off somewhat of a broken play that left Holtby out of position.More news: Apple may invest billions of dollars in Toshiba chips unit
"Yeah, they were loud all game", Marner said. "The last 30 minutes I thought was a little better". We're going to be a real hard out. "They're a heck of a team, but we're not slouches, either".
Ovechkin wasn't the Caps' best or even second-best player. The puck wound up at the point and Gardiner fired it at the net.
"I don't know who was behind me", recounts Wilson.
Less than a minute after the Gardiner goal, Andre Burakovsky drew an interference call on Brian Boyle.
The Buds are not the only Toronto sports team in the playoffs. "I got a little space and [Joe Pavelski] saw me in the middle. It's only human", he said.
Babcock: "I can promise you we're going to be prepared". "You just see how tight checking they are". A second and third effort, as habit.
"We didn't do a good job of taking (second and third chances) away", he added. We were very resilient, obviously. "He had a lot of time, and he just got it up quick".
Finally with just four minutes left in the period, Washington tied the game with an even-strength goal. He also scored the tying goal late in the second period. He also talked the team off the ledge. "That's what leaders do".
For them to have any kind of chance, the Leafs PP will need to be lethal. Some of the Capitals were on their way over the boards to celebrate. Nabbing Kevin Shattenkirk at the trade deadline was a big morale booster and the erstwhile Blues rearguard really got the offense going by the end of the campaign.
Toronto's goalie Frederik Andersen is expected to be between the pipes, but the Buds will be without rookie defenceman Nikita Zaitsev.
As playoff lessons go, this one stung the student Maple Leafs like getting 49% on an exam. "Hopefully we can play them and get rid of 'em". "They get too loose, it'll make it too easy for 'em".