Another 2-1 lead after two periods…
Another 3-2 loss.
The Washington Capitals made it 0-for-2 on their Ontario road trip, dropping another 3-2 decision, this one to the Toronto Maple Leafs. It was the Leafs’ first home win of the season in three tries.
It looked good for the visitors early when Jason Chimera pushed the puck around the end board behind the Leafs’ net to Mike Ribeiro. From goalie James Reimer’s left Ribeiro circled around defenseman Matt Frattin and angled out in search of a passing lane. He found it, snapping the puck across the slot to Joel Ward on the left wing side for an open netter that Ward buried.
James van Riemsdyk tied the game seven minutes later on the back end of what started as a 5-on-3 power play (Jason Chimera getting a double dose of penalty box time for hooking and yapping), one of eight power play chances the Leafs would enjoy in the first 34 minutes of the game. That would be how the teams went to the first intermission, tied at one apiece.
Alex Ovechkin reached into the golden oldies bin to break the tie on the Caps’ third (and what would be their last) power play of the evening early in the second period. It was Mike Ribeiro who made the play though, looking off Nikolai Kulemin as if he was going to pass the puck to the point. It opened up a passing lane to Ovechkin at the top of the left wing circle. From there, Ovechkin sent an old-fashioned wrist shot through Reimer’s five hole for what would be the only score of the middle period.
The Caps learned nothing from their lost 2-1 lead in Ottawa on Tuesday, though. Toronto came out flying, pushing the Caps back on their heels and getting clean shooting lanes on goalie Michal Neuvirth. The Caps finally cracked, allowing two goals in the space of 2:13 at the hands of Kulemin and Frattin, the two Leafs who were victimized by Ribeiro's passing on scoring plays earlier in the game.
The Caps, having looked gassed for the first half of the period, applied heavy pressure in the last half of the period, but the damage was done. When Alex Ovechkin whistled a shot just wide of the far post with four seconds left, it was over. And if you didn’t DVR it, you can just replay the Ottawa game…same thing.
-- In being showered with those eight power play chances in the game’s first 34 minutes, the Leafs managed to build up what was a 25-3 edge in shots attempted at one point. As it was, the Leafs ended the game with an 84-46 edge in total shot attempts (40-22 in shots on goal).
-- The Caps season so far in a moment… Alex Ovechkin circling behind the Toronto net once..twice (shoot, he might still be doing it). Other guys were standing around, and he had his head down. They’re not giving him a passing option, and he’s not looking for one. Game over.
-- Toronto had a total of 12:11 in power play ice time in the first 35:58 of the game. More than a third of the elapsed time is time Ovechkin isn’t going to see the ice. He had less than ten minutes of even strength ice time in the first two periods.
-- Michal Neuvirth deserved better…a lot better. He had 37 saves on 40 shots and saved nine of ten on the penalty kill. Look at it this way. He face more even strength shots (27) than the Caps had in total (22). He had a soft goal in there – the game-tying goal by Kulemin when he let the original shot squeak through his pads to the goal line. But he more than made up for it just on his repeated robberies on Phil Kessel.
-- And where is Nicklas Backstrom? In 18 minutes and change, two shot attempts (none on goal), and he lost 13 of 20 faceoffs (he was 2-for-7 in the offensive zone). He did have an assist on the Ovechkin goal, but otherwise it would be hard to remember moment.
-- The Caps were 5-for-21 on offensive zone draws. Backstrom and Ribeiro were a combined 9-for-25.
-- Caps season so far in a moment, part dwux… Marcus Johansson gives up the puck, they gets turned around in front of Neuvirth, Jeff Schultz is late to cover Frattin, and Frattin flips it off the pipe and in. A day late and a dollar short.
-- Ovechkin did not have an even strength shot on goal in the game until there was 2:14 left in the game; it was his only even strength shot on goal of the game. That’s ok…no Cap had more than two even strength shots on goal.
-- Ponder this for a moment. In the year Alex Ovechkin scored 65 goals it represented 27.3 percent of total number of goals scored by the Caps in 2007-2008. With his fourth goal tonight, Joel Ward has accounted for 26.7 percent of the Caps’ goals this season. One is a good sign, the other is not.
-- It might surprise you to know that Eric Fehr dressed tonight. Getting only 4:11 in ice time (and no shifts in the second period), you might be excused for missing him.
-- John Erskine has had more “Ovechkin” in him than Ovechkin lately. He had an even strength goal against Buffalo (Ovechkin does not yet have one), and his hit on Phil Kessel barely a half minute into this game had a very “Ovechkinesque” look to it.
-- Look, killing seven of eight shorthanded situations is a good thing, but if they go short eight times against the Penguins on Sunday, Pittsburgh is going to challenge double digits in goals. The Leafs power play was and is flat out awful. The fact that the Caps have allowed power play goals in six of seven games does not give one a comfortable feeling heading into the weekend.
-- Early post game comments from the players seem to repeat the word “luck” a lot, as in “the Caps haven’t had any.” Bull. If you’re 1-5-1, losing from Florida to Canada and in-between, when you blow third period leads in consecutive games, you’re not unlucky, you’re just bad.
In the end, the Caps are looking right down the gun barrel. At 1-5-1 they now get the Pennsylvania teams (Pittsburgh twice) and a rematch with the Leafs in the next four games. By the time they get to face the almost equally hapless Florida Panthers on February 9th, the Caps could be 1-9-1. If that comes to pass, their season is over. They have to turn this around…right…now.