Seen This Movie Before – Just 33 days ago, the Caps took a two-goal lead into the third period of a game against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Verizon Center. In that Nov. 3 contest, the Leafs drew even with three goals in a span of 3:03 early in the third, and scored a fourth unanswered tally to take a 4-3 lead before ultimately absorbing a 5-4 shootout loss.
Tonight’s script was altered slightly. Once again, the Leafs rallied from a three-goal, third period deficit to force overtime. But this time the Leafs won the skills competition, too, earning a pair of points and sending the Caps to a second straight home setback. It goes into the books as a 5-4 Toronto triumph.
Caps coach Bruce Boudreau says he warned his troops of the possibility of a Toronto comeback, but it happened anyway.
“I talked about what [the Leafs] did and that they’re not going to quit and that they believe in themselves now a little bit and they’re going to come out in the third period,” says Boudreau. “And they scored three goals to take the lead and we barely snuck by last time. It was something we were well aware of.”
The Caps entered tonight’s game with a 4-1 third-period lead against a plucky Leafs team that had generated its share of good scoring chances in the first 40 minutes, but finished on just one. That was Clarke MacArthur’s power play goal at 11:47 of the first that evened the game at 1-1.
Early in the third, the Caps did all the right things with their three-goal lead. They got pucks deep, they gained the red line and made the Leafs play a 200-foot game. Trouble was, once the Leafs came those 200 feet, the Caps had plenty of trouble playing in their own end of the ice.
“We quit playing in our zone,” says Boudreau. “I think they were mentally thinking they just wanted to play safe and we wanted to just get it out, but when you stop playing … you’ve got to continue to play and play hard when you get a chance to go on the forecheck. You can’t just allow a team to come into our zone all night long. And then when they were in our zone, our positioning by both defense and forwards was really bad.”
Mikhail Grabovski’s one-timer from the slot at 4:16 of the third made it 4-2, and then Tim Brent and MacArthur scored in a span of just 59 seconds late in regulation to even it up. MacArthur’s goal came off a sublime pass from Grabovski with Toronto goaltender Jonas Gustavsson pulled for an extra attacker.
“Washington got a little sloppy towards the end,” notes Toronto coach Ron Wilson, a former Caps bench boss. “I think they thought the game was over but we kept on playing and took advantage of some of their miscues in their end. It’s great for our team.”
The Capitals have won just four of their last 10 games (4-4-2).
The win was Toronto’s first on the road since Oct. 15, ending an 0-7-1 road skid. The Leafs have been shutout in four of their 11 road games this season, and they’ve scored a total of 20 goals on the road this season. Toronto has scored eight goals in two games in the District, and a dozen goals in nine road games everywhere else.
Double-Nickel Down – The Caps lost defenseman Jeff Schultz, who suffered a fractured thumb in the first period of Monday’s game and will miss the next 4-6 weeks.
Net Presence Brings Net Presents – After Washington scored single tallies in its previous two games – losses to Dallas and Atlanta, respectively – Boudreau preached the need for his players to go to the net, get their noses dirty and cash in on rebound chances.
The Caps got that part of it right.
Perreault went to the net and deflected Tom Poti’s point shot past Gustavsson on his first shift of the game at 2:55 of the first to give the Caps a 1-0 lead. Knuble buried a rebound on the power play to put the Caps on top, 2-1.
The Caps had greater net presence, and they were also more accurate with their shot attempts and had fewer shots blocked.
Late Steal – With his two goals tonight, Perreault – a sixth-round choice (177th overall) in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft – now has six tallies (and 13 points) in 25 games for his NHL career. With those two goals, he becomes the first player chosen by the Caps in the NHL Entry Draft after the second round to amass as many as six career goals in a Washington sweater since Richard Zednik.
Zednik, a 10th round (249th overall) choice in the 1994 NHL Entry Draft, scored 69 goals in 289 games with the Capitals.
“He brought great energy like we thought and he made plays like we thought,” says Boudreau of Perreault’s performance on Monday. “If some of the other forwards played with as much energy as him, we wouldn’t have been in the situation we were in.”
Perreault has two goals and four points and is plus-5 in four NHL games this season. Tonight was his first two-goal game in the NHL, and his third two-point game.
First Blood – Tonight marked the ninth time this season the Caps have scored the game’s first goal in a home game. They have picked up a point in each of those nine contests (7-0-2).
One Down, Three To Go – Toronto entered tonight’s game in 13th place in the Eastern Conference standings. Starting with Monday’s game against the Caps in Washington, the Leafs are looking at a difficult week of scheduling.
Their run is off to a good start with a win over the Capitals, but now Toronto heads to Pittsburgh for a Wednesday night date with the Penguins. The Leafs then return home to face the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday and the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday.
Toronto takes on the top four teams in the Eastern Conference in a span of just six days.
Power Light – Toronto has scored a power play goal in four of its 11 road games this season, picking up at least a point (3-0-1) in each of those contests.
Toronto tallied with the extra man in each of its first two road games this season, going a combined 2-for-10 with the extra man in 4-3 road wins at Pittsburgh on Oct. 13 and at New York on Oct. 15.
Since then, the Leafs are 2-for-39 on the road on the power play. They are 2-for-8 on the power play in Washington in that stretch, and 0-for-31 everywhere else. MacArthur's power play goal tonight was the Leafs' first on the road since their last visit here on Nov. 3.
Maple Leafs Clusters – Tonight’s game marked the third time in his NHL career that Caps goaltender Michal Neuvirth has started against the Leafs. He has surrendered four or more goals in all three of those games, and has given up three goals in a period four times in those three games vs. Toronto.
Neuvirth is now 1-1-1 with a 4.42 GAA and an .848 save pct. lifetime against the Leafs.
By The Numbers – Poti had three assists … Ovechkin scored a goal for the second straight game and has points in six of his last seven (two goals, seven assists) … The Caps have now won more than half of their face-offs in 15 of the last 16 games … Boyd Gordon won 12 of 15 (80%) face-offs … Poti and John Carlson paced the Caps with three blocked shots each … Ovechkin, Matt Hendricks and Scott Hannan led the Caps with three hits each … Keith Aulie led the Leafs with six hits and Tomas Kaberle paced the visitors with four blocked shots.