What was billed as one of the most-anticipated games of the season lived up to expectations.
The Leafs could have used one, or all, of those phrases after losing 4-1 to the Rangers in NY on Sunday night.
Montreal finished the 2017-18 season 29-40-13, its 71 points 26 fewer than the New Jersey Devils, who earned the second wild card berth into the postseason from the East.
"We played a pretty good game, " Kapanen said. He had a tremendous game.
"It's always good to see all four lines contributing and different guys getting it done for us every night".
The Bell Centre crowd was on the edge of its seat throughout, even more so than usual when the Maple Leafs are in town on a Saturday night with hundreds, even thousands, of their rowdy fans in the building. He is the seventh goalie in franchise history with 50 or more saves in a game. "Fun to be a part of it, especially on a Saturday".
It was the first meeting between Toronto and Montreal since the season opener, which the Leafs won 3-2 in overtime.
With both teams riding three-game winning streaks, the newest chapter in one of hockey's biggest rivalries did not disappoint. "It was energizing and exciting". But with a point left on the table Saturday, a tight-lipped Domi wasn't entertaining the idea when it was pitched to him, the very short term all that mattered to himself and his teammates.
Tavares scored the victor with a backhand glove-side on Carey Price after taking a slick pass from Mitch Marner that crossed up Jeff Petry and Phillip Danault.
Toronto started off well enough on their first power play, registering six shots on net in the two-minute span while being thwarted repeatedly by acrobatic goaltending from Georgiev. The Leafs aided their goaltender by keeping play in the Rangers' end, but Sparks was also called upon to make some tough saves in the third period to hold Toronto within striking distance for a time.
Right from the first period, Nazem Kadri's line with Connor Brown and William Nylander had impressive push, and they kept on top of the Rangers as well as any Toronto line in Sunday's matchup. After coming out of the bye week to start February hot, the chemistry on that unit has cooled and they struggle to hit each other with passes and get the puck out cleanly.
He had Alexandar Georgiev to thank for that.
Toronto didn't sit back though, taking over possession and keeping the pressure firmly on the Rangers with a 21-1 advantage in shots.
The teams combined for three goals in 4:42 to start the game.
"That game is ours", grumbled forward Andrew Shaw, who scored a goal and had an assist in his return to the lineup following 15 games missed with a neck injury. Shaw netted his 12th of the season 51 seconds into the game when he deflected Jeff Petry's wrist shot past Andersen. Montreal opened the scoring less than a minute into the game before Andreas Johnsson and Nikita Zaitsev scored a pair of goals 2:22 apart less than a minute and a half after Montreal's marker, carrying a 2-1 lead into the 2nd period.
Zach Hyman stole the puck from Shea Weber behind the net before finding Johnsson with a flawless backhanded cross-crease pass at 2:20 of the first. Price was screened by Frederik Gauthier and never saw the puck.
Mike Babcock shortened his bench in the third looking for an equalizer, but the Rangers continued to frustrate the Leafs with well-placed sticks and boxing out in front of their net.
"I thought the power play was really good even though (it) didn't score", Babcock said. "They scored and set up another one. He played a hell of a game for them".
Leading 2-1 in the third period, McQuaid gave the Rangers some insurance when he scored from the point at 11:59 for his second goal of the season.