First night of playoffs teaches lesson to young Maple Leafs

He said it before he had any idea that his Washington Capitals would wind up playing Babcock's Maple Leafs in the playoffs.

LAS VEGAS - Kicked off the bus by the Florida Panthers in November, Gerard Gallant has packed his bags for Las Vegas to take over as the first coach of the National Hockey League expansion Golden Knights. All the while he was thinking. Nearly two more minutes than Morgan Rielly played, and Babcock was quick to call it the best game Rielly has played this year.

The Leafs can probably ask more of their centres in Game 2. With the way his season has gone, expect more from this 24-year-old by the end of the playoffs. There is no longer a divide, if there ever was one.

It also helped that the Predators played good defense in front of him, and that they blocked 26 Blackhawks shots. "We want everyone to feel equal". "A guy like Tanner Glass, I mean he spends the majority of the year in the AHL, comes up, scores a huge goal for them". But when they score, all the bench said, 'Just calm down and let's play our way.' Coming back in after first there was no panic, obviously still lots of minutes to play. Zaitsev didn't skate Friday.

It took the Caps some time to heed that message. If there was any pressure on the youngsters, they didn't show it. "They certainly had it to start and we kind of calmed down, settled the nerves and we did what we wanted to do: come back from (down) two goals". It allowed the Flyers back into the series that Washington eventually won in six games, but the Capitals were unable to overcome their shortcomings while facing the Penguins, who would eventually go on to win the Stanley Cup.

"There is always some nervousness, I think, when you come into games like this".

Playoffs define players. You want to be a playoff performer. "It wasn't anything out of the ordinary as to what worked and what didn't".

"It's hard to say what was up there", Capitals winger Alex Ovechkin said. I guarantee you're going to get a better game from Toronto and I know you're going to get a better game from the Washington Capitals. Nothing out of the ordinary. Those were the hockey players Wilson loved to watch as a kid growing up in Toronto.

Spoken like a veteran. He said it before Andersen made a spectacular kick save in overtime that had his bench jumping as though the final goal had been scored - and then it was scored and a great night for the Leafs goaltender and this very young Maple Leafs team was suddenly the night that nearly was. Even in Game 1.

The Capitals, however, have an overwhelming amount of experience, something coach Barry Trotz hopes to draw on.

"But every night there's going to be a guy that's going to be able to step up and get the job done". "The puck is the same size, the net is the same size, so you gotta play".

Barely ten minutes later Jake Gardiner took a shot that deflected into the net off of T.J. Oshie's stick but referee Gord Dwyer immediately disallowed it. Toronto head coach Mike Babcock challenged the the interference with Braden Holtby, however, and he was successful. "You know, everyone back home if they're watching it on TV or they're in D.C., I have good support groups in both cities and everyone is pretty happy". It's a daunting task for any team to go up against a juggernaut, but anything can happen over the course of a seven-game series. "A lot on the line". The great thing about the playoffs is you win so you can play again.