On Saturday, the Washington Capitals headed to Canada to take on the Toronto Maple Leafs in their second game of a back-to-back. After winning against the Buffalo Sabres on Friday, and winning 4 of their last 5, the Caps were looking to keep gaining ground in their division and inch closer to the red hot, first place New York Rangers.
Back in his hometown, Tom Wilson got the start on the top line with Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Kuznetsov. The Caps were looking a little slow and tired, and the Leafs took advantage. Matt Martin scored on a breakaway lifting the Leafs to an early lead. Caps were called for the games first penalty as Brooks Orpik was called for hooking. The Caps killed it successfully. Almost immediately after, the Caps were called for another penalty as Nicklas Backstrom was called for holding, and the Caps PK was successful yet again. Justin Williams was called for another penalty when he caught Tyler Bozak up high with his stick. Caps killed this penalty also. The Leafs were definitely buzzing in the first. They had some grade A chances but Braden Holtby was either there with a great stop, or got some help from the goal posts. They were really the goalie’s best friend! The Leafs were out shooting the Caps 25-10 total shoot attempts and 15-6 shots on goal. The Caps were lucky to get out of the first only down by 1 goal.
In the second, Caps still could not maintain zone time and, other than their initial play from the opening faceoff, showed no fire. The Caps head back to the penalty box as Karl Alzner took a necessary penalty to prevent a breakaway and was called for holding. The Leafs finally got one past Holtby and score a powerplay goal. James van Riemsdyk netted a rebound to put the bad guys up 2-0. Marcus Johannson drew the Caps first powerplay of the game as he was hooked by Zach Hyman. With :24 seconds remaining in the penalty to Hyman, Leo Komarov was called for hooking, giving the Caps a brief 5 on 3 advantage. However, the Caps did nothing to help themselves. With both penalties killed, Holtby kept the Leafs from getting another one by doing a great split save. Caps would head back to the powerplay when Nazem Kadri was called for roughing. Caps had some good opportunities but Frederik Andersen was there to keep the Caps off the board. Dmitry Orlov continued the penalty parade with the Caps fifth penalty of the game as he was called for boarding. Another ping from the crossbar kept the Leafs to only two goals. Caps end the second still down by 2.
The Leafs got a goal :22 seconds into the third. Auston Matthews puts a rebound in past Holtby. Tom Wilson took his frustration out on Matt Martin after Wilson told Matt Hunwick to have a seat and Martin took exception and defended Hunwick’s honor. Both Wilson and Martin received 5 minutes for fighting. This fight was honestly not surprising by Wilson. With the Caps down by three goals, somebody needs to do something to get these boys pumped up. It must’ve worked because Backstrom finally got a puck past Andersen and spoiled his shutout. Caps almost added another one when they had a slight breakaway. The Leafs had another breakaway also, but Holtby held his ground. However, Kadri gave the Leafs back their 3 goal lead when he put a puck five hole on Holtby. Caps went to the powerplay when Hunwick was called for hooking. They could not convert on the PP, but Marcus Johansson gave the Caps another goal as he lofted the puck over Andersen. With just over 2 minutes left, Holtby is pulled for the extra skater. However, it was for naught. Caps lose, 4-2.
Considering how this game started and how bad the Caps played for 95% of the game, I am seriously surprised they only lost by two goals. Holtby definitely needs to thank his goal posts. The rest of the team needs to thank Holtby. He kept this game as close as it was. The entire team just seemed like they did not want to be playing this game. At least it was not a shutout for Toronto.
The Caps get a nice break as their next game is not until next Thursday, December 21st. It will be at 7 pm at the Verizon Center against the New York Islanders. At 13-6-2, the Caps are now 3 points behind the Rangers and 1 point behind Pittsburgh. Hopefully our boys can get some rest and attack their next game with the FURY we are used to seeing them UNLEASH!!