It was more of the same from the Washington Capitals, as they were out skated, out worked and out played by a resurgent Toronto Maple Leafs team in a 3-2 loss at home on Tuesday night.
Hopes were so high in Washington for the Capitals to build off of a strong playoff run last year that ended in a brutal Game 7 defeat at the hands of the New York Rangers. This season has been anything but impressive so far for Washington and the trend continued last night. Even though the score may make some think it was a close game, Toronto held the edge for most of the night.
“I’m very frustrated. I still feel like we’re playing good hockey,” Karl Alzner said. “It’s just never good enough to win though and its about time we get over that hump.”
A lack of a strong fore-check and the seeming inability to create traffic in the offensive zone, or break up shooting lanes in the defensive zone, played a key role in deciding the Caps’ fate. Outside of a few strong performances from newest Capital Mike Ribeiro, Washington looked out of place and really unfocused.
In true 2013 Washington Capitals fashion, the team started the opening period off with a penalty. Jason Chimera, but you could have guessed that one, headed to the box for boarding just over a minute into the game. Good thing for the Caps the Leafs were 23rd in the NHL in power play scoring heading into the contest. Washington eventually killed it off, but the worst was yet to come.
Seven minutes after killing off the penalty Toronto struck first with a goal from James van Riemsdyk. The goal, unassisted, would really deflate a Caps team that played much of the first period on its heals. Washington goalie Michal Neuvirth went to go play the puck behind the net and so did defenseman Tom Poti. There was a miscommunication between the two and it resulted in van Reimsdyk getting an easy turnover and goal.
It would get worse too, as JVR would score again a little over two minutes later when he knocked home a rebound from Cody Franson and Phil Kessel.
“Really, obviously I thought about calling a timeout and I said you know what we’re going to need that timeout later and it is up to the next line to establish the game back because we weren’t getting out played,” Head Coach Adam Oates said when asked about giving up the second goal. “To me there is a difference, they scored two goals, but we weren’t getting out played.”
A late power play on a Kessel holding call opened the door for the Caps to get back into the contest. While the man-advantage looked disjointed, Marcus Johansson took a beautiful pass from Tomas Kundratek at the door step and banged the puck home into the empty net to make it 2-1. Suddenly it looked like the Caps had some life to carry over.
Ben Scrivens, who started in net in place of starter James Reimer, was outstanding for Toronto most of the night. Although he had little traffic in front of him for most of the night, he was able to deflect shots and keep Toronto in control for almost all three periods. The second period was his best, while it was perhaps Michal Neuvirths worst.
Even though he only gave up one goal, a blue line blast from Korbinian Holzer, his first NHL goal, it was a soft one and a goal everyone knows he probably wanted back. Holzer got the feed from Mark Fraser and Kessel and fired one through the Washington netminder’s five-hole. While there may be some debate as to whether the puck deflected or not, Neuvirth said it was after the game, it was a goal he should have had as he saw it the whole way.
Despite again, trailing in terms of controlling play, Ribeiro breathed some life back into the Verizon Center with a power play goal in the third. Roofing a pass from Brouwer, with the secondary assist coming from Alexander Ovechkin, he made it 3-2 midway through the period and gave the Capitals some energy. Washington only had 15 shots total through two periods but managed to post 11 on the board in the third alone.
Despite Washington’s late energy and furry of shots in the final moments, they just could not get one passed Scrivens. Toronto’s goalie really put an exclamation point on his evening performance with a series of huge saves that thwarted a Washington scoring chance just south of the left faceoff circle.
Toronto would hold on and the Capitals would again fall at home in a game they probably would like to forget as they head to Pittsburgh to take on the Penguins on Thursday.