Wilson scores in OT as Caps survive scare to beat Leafs

But holding that lead in a hostile venue is quite another step. We're going to be a real hard out.

The Toronto Maple Leafs kick off their first Stanley Cup playoff series in four years on Thursday as they take on the Capitals in Washington. Instead, the cheapest ticket available for a game at Air Canada center is $254, which is over five-times more expensive than the cheapest ticket to see the Capitals and over twice as expensive as the Blackhawks.

"The first period we certainly showed that we can play with them", said Leafs defenceman Matt Hunwick.

"I think they realize now what's at stake and how the game elevates now as we move forward", Julien said.

"Where do we want to be?" That's the best way to deal with young stars such as Mitch Marner, William Nylander and Auston Matthews and the strategy bore out when Tampa Bay did something similar one game later against Toronto.

"It was a confidence builder for sure". That's playoff hockey. Things bounce to somebody and it goes in.

"Didn't like that we wouldn't shoot the puck", Babcock said. "There was just a one-shot difference". Toronto has overachieved this season and are light years ahead of where many expected to find them this season as their rookie phenoms have taken over the league and while they may not have much of a chance to win this series in most circles, they have defied the odds all season and will be out to shock the world with an opening round series win against the President's Trophy winners.

Earlier in the week, Toronto coach Mike Babcock was asked how the Leafs would game plan for Tom Wilson during their first round series with the Capitals.

Exactly the seed of doubt the Leafs hope to plant in the minds of the underachieving springtime squad. It also got many of them excited for what's to come. (But) we didn't have any panic. "Once the puck goes in it's a whirlwind".

Toronto's second goal, an unassisted tally by Gardiner from the slot at 9:44, was initially waved off due to goaltender's interference on Nazem Kadri.

Washington snipers fanned or broke sticks on a 5-on-3 until Justin Williams finally scored in the dying seconds with Brian Boyle already out of the box. Nearly everything about the organization has changed since that momentous day at TD Garden in Boston when the Leafs unravelled in a 5-4 Game 7 overtime loss. I understand the narrative of the young guys, but our veteran players have been huge for us. "You watch how good he is, all 200 feet of the ice, at that age, that's probably what jumps out the most - his all-around game".

The Capitals are one of the favourites to win the Stanley Cup, while the Leafs are among the longest of longshots. They know what it takes to win a battle of attrition against a great team.

Babcock was pleased that the Leafs were starting on the second night of the playoffs, glad that his players could get a taste of what might await them Thursday in Washington.

It's clear that even Frederik Andersen didn't expect the shot to come from Wilson. "Maybe (teammate Kevin Shattenkirk) or someone was calling for the puck", Wilson said.

"I think for me, Mark Hunter coming on, and taking it upon himself to revamp the way we draft and the way we view the draft and bring his skill set to the draft has been large". "I was fortunate to be coached by Claude Lemieux".

"It's not just like you're playing in the regular season, you're going to play the same team over and over again", Babcock said.

"There was a few players (he admired), but a guy like Darcy Tucker was a fan favourite". But I will say, at the same time, you have to know the ante is higher.

There were the times Nicklas Backstrom - "one of the best passers in the league" - came by for dinner. You get ready to play. Matthews had a goal and two assists.