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3 key takeaways from Game 2: It's time to focus on if, not when

3 key takeaways from Game 2: It's time to focus on if, not when

After a 4-3 overtime loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Caps now find themselves locked in a 1-1 series tie. Here are three key takeaways from Game 2.

The conversation should not be about how quickly the Caps can beat Toronto

Toronto gave up a 1-0 lead, trailed 2-1 on the road against a deafening crowd armed with cowbells, Roman Polak suffered a serious ankle inury…and still the Leafs were able to battle back to tie the game and take the lead in the third period. Coming into this series, it looked like this was a total mismatch. You can no longer say that. Toronto said they learned they could play with the Caps after Game 1. That was even more evident on Saturday. As much as fans may want the Caps to finish this series off quickly, especially with Pittsburgh dominating Columbus the way they are, that can’t be the focus. Washington just needs to focus on winning and not worry about how quickly they can get it done.

RELATED: Toronto shocks Caps in OT to even series

Toronto’s defense suffered another blow

An already suspect defense for Toronto is now down another key piece as Mike Babcock announced after the game Roman Polak will miss the remainder of the season with a lower-body injury. He suffered the injury after a hit from Brooks Orpik in the second period. The Leafs already played Games 1 and 2 without Nikita Zaitsev. Can they survive another significant loss to the blue line?

Braden Holtby is making up for too many mistakes

Despite the loss and giving up four goals, Holtby was phenomenal again and he needed to be. The Caps are asking too much of their netminder with their play in the defensive zone. Washington continues to play sloppy in its own end with bad turnovers and passive play. Holtby nearly bailed them out with 47 saves, but had they played better in their own end, the outcome likely would have been different.

MORE CAPITALS: Penalties the early story of Caps-Leafs Game 2

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Referees miss blatant boarding by Paquette on Orpik

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USA TODAY Sports

Referees miss blatant boarding by Paquette on Orpik

A rough hit to the back of Brooks Orpik left him down on the ice and slow to get up. Cedric Paquette skated back to his bench and waited for the trainer to attend to Orpik and (probably) for the referees to call his number and send him to the box.

The penalty, however, never came.

You always hear in hockey that if you can see a player's numbers, you should pull up on the hit.

What that refers to is the numbers on the back of a player's jersey. You are not allowed to hit a player directly in the back into the boards.

The official definition of boarding according to the NHL rule book is, "any player who checks or pushes a defenseless opponent in such a manner that causes the opponent to hit or impact the boards violently or dangerously." Hitting a player "in the numbers" is a defenseless position.

Apparently Cedric Paquette didn't know that and, unfortunately for the Capitals, neither did the referees.

Someone explain to me how this is not a boarding penalty:

Sometimes referees are put in a tough position because a player turns his back right before they take the hit, thus putting themselves in a vulnerable position to draw a penalty. That was not the case here. Orpik never turned.

When Tom Wilson hit Pittsburgh Penguins forward Zach Aston-Reese in the second period, the hockey world spent the next day debating whether it was an illegal hit. There is no debate here, no grey area. Just a clear board.

And no call.

You can understand referees wanting to put away the whistles for a Game 7, but you have to call the blatant dangerous plays like this. This was a bad miss by the referees, plain and simple.

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Capitals advance to Stanley Cup Final for first time in 20 years; will face inaugural Golden Knights

Capitals advance to Stanley Cup Final for first time in 20 years; will face inaugural Golden Knights

The Capitals' magical run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs continues, moving on to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1998 after a 4-0 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 7 on Wednesday night to face George McPhee's expansion Vegas Golden Knights.

Game 1 of the 2018 NHL Stanley Cup Final will take place on Memorial Day, Monday, 5/27 at 8:00 p.m. at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nev. The Golden Knights ended the regular-season with four points more than the Capitals, meaning the inaugural Vegas team will have home-ice advantage.

After taking a 2-0 series lead over the Lightning, Tampa won three straight to put the Capitals on the brink of elimination before back-to-back wins helped them advance past the Eastern Conference Final. 

This wasn't even supposed to happen in many people's eyes. The Capitals trailed the Columbus Blue Jackets 2-0 in the first round, before winning four straight to then face Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins for the third straight year. 

After winning that series in six games, eliminating the Penguins from the playoffs for just the second time ever, the Caps went into Tampa and shocked the Lightning with a 4-2 win in Game 1, following that up with a 6-2 win in Game 2

Now, the greatest expansion team in modern sports history is all that stands in the way of a Stanley Cup. Marc-Andre Fleury and the Golden Knights knocked off the Winnipeg Jets 2-1 on Sunday in Game 5 of the Western Conference final to advance. 

The Knights, whose historic inaugural 109-point season included a Pacific Division crown, sweeping the Los Angeles Kings in the first round, before knocking out the San Jose Sharks in six games.

The Jets had the NHL's second-best record with 114 points in the regular season. They advanced to the first conference final in the city's history with a five-game victory over the Minnesota Wild in the opening round before topping the Presidents' Trophy-winning Nashville Predators in Game 7 on the road.

Now, in the Stanley Cup Final, the Capitals will try and avoid being a part of the wrong side of history, while making their own history in the process.