NHL playoffs: Leafs top Capitals again; Blackhawks drop third straight vs. Preds

Another week of playoff hockey is underway, and somehow the second round seems ever so distant for some of the Stanley Cup favorites.

The Washington Capitals lost the edge in their series with a second straight overtime defeat at the hands of the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday night. And the Chicago Blackhawks now trail Nashville 3-0, with the Preds' first try at a series-clincher set for Thursday night.

Along with the Maple Leafs' streaking youth, the Boston Bruins-Ottawa Ottawa Senators battle makes for one of the top stories from another night's worth of first-round matchups:

Toronto's youth is poised to take the Capitals the distance

Just 1:37 into overtime Monday, Tyler Bozak became about as important to the Maple Leafs as Dart Guy has been to Toronto fans.

His winning goal gave the young underdogs a 4-3 OT win, a mirror result of the last Toronto-Washington bout. But more important, he confirmed the very real possibility that the Maple Leafs, complete with their opportunistic and up-tempo youth, are going to challenge the Presidents' Trophy winners and challenge them again. Maybe even all the way to a Game 7.

It's not a shock to skeptics of the Capitals' postseason chances, but it is a promising revelation for a core that finally got some scoring out of Auston Matthews . This was a series the Maple Leafs wouldn't have been blamed for losing, but now, they own the advantage and it doesn't look like a fluke.

The key for the Capitals moving forward is taking advantage of shot opportunities. With the talent Washington boasts, there is no reason Toronto should have been allowed to erase a two-goal second-period deficit, let alone prevent the Caps from getting off a clean shot until late in the third.

Bruins-Senators keeps on raising the bar

It shouldn't be a surprise anymore that the Boston Bruins and Senators are putting together one of the first round's most intense battles. The two sides don't have the draw of the Montreal Canadiens-New York New York Rangers scuffle, but they have sure delivered on entertainment.

For the second game in a row, Ottawa bested Boston 4-3 in overtime, but not before appearing to lose complete control of a 3-0 second-period lead. A David Pastrnak goal 13:51 into the third period rallied the Bruins from down three to knot up the contest, and yet some sly saves from Craig Anderson and a power-play score from Bobby Ryan in OT put Ottawa back on top and in charge of the series, 2-1.

Keep it locked on this series, because all signs point to it going seven games -- and a Game 7 overtime, probably.

Pekka Rinne is still stunting on the Blackhawks

After being held scoreless in the first game, Chicago finally dented the scoring column thanks to goals from  Dennis Rasmussen and Patrick Kane . But Pekka Rinne is still adding to a fast-growing list of playoff highlights as he reps the Nashville Predators net.

Check out Rinne's diving deflection of an empty-net Chicago shot during Monday's matchup:

Of course, the Preds got the last laugh in this one with a 3-2 overtime win. Rinne finished with 34 saves.

And the time has officially come to respect Nashville's chances of knocking off the Western Conference favorites. The Predators have never before built a 3-0 lead on Chicago, and they did so Monday by overcoming a two-goal deficit, tying things up with a Filip Forsberg strike and, apparently, a stronger will to win. You can't look up and down the talent on Chicago's roster, goalie Corey Crawford included, and say that the Hawks are playing up to their potential, and it's anyone's guess why their collapse is coming at a time they usually thrive.

In any event, Nashville is making its cruise through the first round look far easier than expected.

The Ducks secured a smooth finish to an inevitable series win

The Anaheim Ducks had their own Predators-esque finish to Monday night, overcoming a 4-1 second-period hole to top the Calgary Flames in overtime.

If ever Calgary were going to spice up the series with an upset, Monday's clash in front of the Flames' sea of red fans was going to be the time, and quick scores had Calgary with its best offensive output of the series.

Anaheim, though, has weathered its defensive injuries and surged after a goalie switch, setting up a smoother finish to an inevitable series victory.

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