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Caps escape, but Leafs will be back

Johansson ends series for Caps with OT winner (0:22)
In the fifth overtime game of the series, Marcus Johansson stuffs home the winner for the Capitals to give Washington the dramatic 4-2 series victory. (0:22)

TORONTO — Bring on the Pittsburgh Penguins.

But first, the Washington Capitals need to come up for air.

Marcus Johansson scored his second goal of the game, 6 minutes, 31 seconds into overtime, and the top-seeded Caps edged the No. 8-seeded Toronto Maple Leafs 2-1 Sunday night, putting an end to a first-round series that was way, way closer than anyone could have ever predicted. The Capitals won the series 4-2.

For a while Sunday, it was looking like a Game 7 would be needed.

Auston Matthews scored his fourth goal in four games to break a 0-0 tie 7:45 into the third period, roofing a shot in on Braden Holtby and proving once again there is no stage too big for the Leafs’ superstar rookie.

But Johansson tied it 1-1 at 12:51, sneaking a shot from a tight angle past Frederik Andersen, the Leafs goalie absolute dynamite on this night, especially with a number of highlight-reel glove saves.

The Leafs made it a point of focus to come out stronger on home ice after being blown out of the water early on last week in Games 3-4. They did just that, outshooting Washington 14-10 in the opening period and sending the message that the favored Caps would have to earn their way to the second round, it wouldn’t be handed to them by a nervous, young team fumbling away the moment.

Instead, just like the entire series to this point, the Capitals once again had their hands full with the Leafs’ speed. On the other hand, there were times when Washington’s cycle game did produce some quality Grade A chances but Andersen was sensational.

Matthews and his Leafs will be back next season, ready for a run. But the moment for now belongs to a veteran Washington team that dodged a first-round bullet.

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