Make no mistake about it — the Toronto Maple Leafs would not be in the playoffs without the regular-season heroics of goaltender Frederik Andersen.

But if the Maple Leafs are to upset the Presidents' Trophy-winning Washington Capitals in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, they'll need Andersen to be better than he was in Game 4, a 5-4 loss that leaves the clubs squared 2-2 in the best-of-seven series.

Not that Andersen was awful. He wasn't. He simply was not sharp and was unable to come up with a big save when his team needed it. The Capitals built a 4-1 first-period lead but the Maple Leafs never quit, a testament to the determination of this team led by youngsters.

Andersen allowed five goals on 34 shots.

Asked about his performance, Andersen said, "I mean, it was not the best, but I wish I could have helped the team out a little bit more by coming up bigger. When [the Capitals] had their chances they seemed to execute better than we did."

Washington goaltender Braden Holtby wasn't much better, giving up four goals on 27 shots. Holtby has not been sharp in the series.

In fact, the best save of the game came courtesy of Washington winger Tom Wilson, who dove into his net to prevent the puck from rolling over the goal line in the first period. Just for fun Wilson got up, skated down the ice and scored the first of his two goals in the game to give his team a 3-1 lead a few seconds later.

Hip Check: Tom Wilson does it all0:41

CBC analyst and former NHL coach Don Cherry didn't hold back when asked to assess the goaltending in Game 4.

"Neither one of these guys could stop a beach ball," Cherry proclaimed. "Bad goaltending tonight, I tell ya."

During his Coach's Corner segment, Cherry said he would have pulled Andersen after Washington's second goal. That's one man's opinion. The fact Andersen kept his team in the game after a rough start might bode well for Toronto in the remainder of the series.

One thing remains clear; the team with seven rookies playing a significant role — Toronto — can hang with the team that is playing with no rookies — Washington — and mopped up the opposition regularly in the regular season.

The game ended 5-4 courtesy of a Tyler Bozak goal with 26.5 seconds remaining in the third period and Andersen on the bench in favour of an extra skater. It marked the fourth straight one-goal game in a series that is still very much up in the air.

Ever the optimist, Andersen refused to give the Capitals credit for what was obviously their best performance in the first four games.

HKN Capitals Maple Leafs 20170419

(Frank Gunn/Canadian Press)

"I think we beat ourselves today," Andersen said. "We didn't come to execute and we didn't talk to each other enough to break out clean and that cost us.

"We didn't come to compete from the beginning. That was obvious, but I think the positive way to look at it is we came back to make it really close. It's tough to come back from that many goals when you are not playing [well] in the first period."

He sure won't get an argument from his coach, Mike Babcock.

"We weren't very good," Babcock stated. "We weren't ready to play. They were more competitive than us at the start in the faceoff circle. We never had the puck at the start and they dominated us territorially.

"It was nice that we were able to score goals and get ourselves back in the game, but we didn't play near as good as we needed to. We talked about how the game was going to be today, but it didn't look like any of that sunk in. We weren't prepared."

It was a rough night for the Maple Leafs' most important player, but when all was said and done, the goalie remained positive.

"I still think we can win," Andersen said. "It's a best-of-three now and that is our focus going into the next game."

Game 5 is Friday in Washington (7 p.m. ET, CBC).