TORONTO (AP) — There will be no Battle of Ontario in the first round of the NHL playoffs.
James van Riemsdyk scored twice, but the Toronto Maple Leafs dropped their regular-season finale 3-2 to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Sunday night and will face the Washington Capitals in the opening round of their first postseason since 2013.
Curtis McElhinney made 29 saves, but Toronto let a 2-0 lead melt away in a porous second period.
Matt Calvert, Josh Anderson and Cam Atkinson scored in the comeback for Columbus. Joonas Korpisalo stopped 30 shots for the Jackets, who are set for a first-round matchup against Pittsburgh.
Had they earned even a point, the Leafs would have faced the Ottawa Senators in the first round, but instead they get the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Capitals.
Toronto has never faced Washington in the postseason — the two teams were in different conferences for a long stretch — and they’ll be heavy underdogs the first time around. The Capitals had the NHL’s best regular-season record for the second straight season, and they’re loaded at every position as they bid for a first Stanley Cup.
The Leafs went 1-1-1 against the Caps in the regular season.
Asked about pressure on his young team heading into the playoffs on Sunday morning, Leafs coach Mike Babcock deflected with apparent aim at the Capitals.
“You have nerves when you win the Presidents’ Trophy and you’re playing a real good team in the first round,” Babcock said. “That’s when it’s a totally different program though. We’re so far away from that program though. We’ve got two years left before that happens.”
No. 1 goalie Frederik Andersen sat out Sunday after exiting a playoff-clinching win against Pittsburgh on Saturday following a hit to the head. Babcock said Andersen showed no concussion symptoms and would be ready for the start of the postseason.
The Leafs had an extra bounce to their step early against Columbus, fresh off the clinching victory over Pittsburgh. They took it to the reeling Jackets (losers of six straight coming in), holding them without a shot for the first 10-plus minutes.
The Leafs got on the board early in the second when van Riemsdyk scored the first of his two goals on the night. He added his second goal and 28th this season during a 2-on-1 rush with Mitch Marner.
The Jackets charged back with three goals in less than seven minutes. Calvert got the first with a weak backhand between McElhinney’s pads, Anderson followed up off the rush and Atkinson got the go-ahead marker short-handed.
NOTES: Toronto rookie D Nikita Zaitsev left in the first period after a hit from Nick Foligno into the end boards. Zaitsev returned briefly before missing the rest of the game with an upper-body injury. He set a Leafs rookie record for minutes this season.
Blue Jackets: Get the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round.