Pacific Division title, playoff seeding at stake on last day

A Leafs defenceman kicked the puck into his own net, in a tie game, with 13 minutes to play, and a playoff berth on the line. He got Toronto on the board with a shortside strike from the left circle, his second goal in as many games. van Riemsdyk came calling again 4:33 later, scoring his 29th of the season and establishing a new career-high of 62 points.

The highly anticipated Battle of Ontario will have to wait.

Then came the victor, deflected in, by another rookie.

Goal scoring droughts in the National Hockey League are common things, even for the very best players (this is a point I drive home every chance I can get - it is not uncommon for players like Alex Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews, Tyler Seguin, John Tavares, or any other superstar to go eight, nine, or even more than 10 games in a row without scoring a goal).

That would be among the best possible scenarios for the Leafs with the playoffs now just around the corner. "But we're going to have to make it one (Sunday)". It had a little of everything.

And if you're a member of Leafs Nation, you would have no doubt of the cruelty of the hockey gods. It wasn't failure. It wasn't ineptitude, even if there were signs that could win the day.

Don't tell the Penguins' No. 81 that his team's 81st game of the season barely mattered.

What did you think of the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-2 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Sunday night? You have to really crawl in at the end. Every one of us.

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"I imagine back to backs are on a year-by-year rotation so if you have the most one year, the next year you get the least", Babcock said, tongue in cheek. This means the Caps will play them instead.

Be proactive - Use the "Flag as Inappropriate" link at the upper right corner of each comment to let us know of abusive posts. "An exciting team to be in the playoffs". And that probably is going to be too much for the Leafs to topple.

But they didn't, blowing a two-goal lead in the second period and finishing in the Eastern Conference's second wild card spot, pitted against the President's Trophy-winning Capitals in a series set to open in Washington on Thursday. But the reality is they've shown all season what they are. But the Leafs are also incredibly skilled.

But the Leafs were 30th a year ago, and they're in.

Washington was 2-1-0 against Toronto this season with the most recent game being earlier this week, a 4-1 Capitals win.

He had about the best debut season a Leafs goalie could have.

It took all of 14 minutes 18 seconds for Auston Matthews to set his first record this season. Easy is for other teams and fan bases. Some members of Leafs Nation remain in disbelief and still expect the worst.

Toronto has been a confident group all season, but there was still a twinge of disappointment over not being able to move as high as possible in the standings. We'll have to wait for more information though.

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It's amusing talking to these young Leafs about those Leafs. "I'm excited to be on this side of the fence". Tormented by bad luck and at times hesitant to shoot during his scoring slump, he finally found satisfaction in front of the people, majority in the media, who questioned his will to win and his conditioning during a six-season span in Toronto. "We've been surprising people from the start of the season".

We'll miss you in the playoffs, Dallas. On Sunday, Toronto won 59 percent of its draws mostly because of how strong the two veterans were.

James van Riemsdyk scored at 2:03 when his shot dipped under the glove of Columbus goalie Joonas Korpisalo. Like Pittsburgh, their first round opponent, they don't need the points. Ryan was sent in for a chance by White in the opening period, but he was tripped up just as he cut in front of the net. And there's a strong case to be made that the Leafs should be favoured over the defensive-minded Senators.

One point would have been enough to get the Leafs into third place, but it wasn't to be.

They don't want this ride to be over in quick fashion.

"There were times you thought they were done", Ralph said.

This, to him, is the very beginning.

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. "I'm excited for our guys. It was a great opportunity".

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