The Washington Capitals helped themselves to another plate of home cooking when they hosted the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday. The Caps came into the contest with a 2-0-1 record through three games, while the visitors were getting back into action after a four day hiatus following their 5-4 win over Montreal in their season opener in Toronto.
The layoff did not seem to affect the Maple Leafs much at the outset, dominating early play with a 9-1 shot advantage in the game’s first ten minutes. Toronto’s tenth shot found the back of the Washington cage, Phil Kessel wristing the puck past goalie Michal Neuvirth to give the Leafs the early lead at 10:40 of the first period.
The Caps got it right back, though, when Troy Brouwer notched his first of the season, stuffing in a rebound of an Alex Ovechkin shot past Leafs goalie James Reimer at 11:51.
The teams traded opportunities over the last eight minutes of the opening frame, the game coming a bit frayed with the back and forth action. But Neuvirth and Reimer prevented any further damage and led the teams off at the first intermission with the game tied, 1-1.
The second period opened much like the first with the Leafs putting the Caps on their heels. But this time it backfired on them when a drive by defenseman Dion Phaneuf was blocked by Joel Ward, the puck ending up on the stick of Mike Green, who fed the puck up to Marcus Johansson starting up ice with Jason Chimera on a 2-on-1 break with John-Michael Liles back for the Leafs. Johansson spread things out at the Leafs’ line to create a better passing angle and to force Liles to decide which option to defend. Liles hesitated, and it was all Johansson needed to slide the puck to Chimera for the tip-in at 5:33 of the period.
Toronto then tried to stem what momentum the Caps might have generated when Mike Brown dropped the gloves with Matt Hendricks. Brown landed a couple of rights to Hendricks’ helmet, but Hendricks got the takedown before the linesmen restored order.
After the brief interlude, the game settled into a bit of a funk; neither team generating much in the way of offense. But with just over a minute remaining in the period the Caps got a goal from Dmitry Orlov on a drive from the top of the Leafs’ zone that Reimer was late defending. It would be the last of the scoring in the second period, the Caps taking a 3-1 lead into the dressing room.
Toronto got cut the two goal deficit in half in the first minute of the third period when Kessel struck again, this time from the doorstep when Neuvirth lost track of a loose puck that was rattling off legs in his crease. The goal gave Toronto new life, but Neuvirth was up to the task, turning away a flurry of shots coming after the Leafs narrowed the lead.
The effort expended appeared to wear on Toronto, though. After peppering Neuvirth in the first half of the period, the shots stopped coming. It allowed the Caps to play a patient, methodical game over the last ten minutes. Their patience was rewarded in the last minute when Brooks Laich notched his second goal of the season, and empty netter at 19:51 to close the scoring, the Caps skating off with a 4-2 win.
Capitals 4 – Maple Leafs 2