It seemed like the cards were stacked pretty high against the Maple Leafs tonight, even before the puck was dropped. The Maple Leafs (2-8-3) were playing the second night of a back-to-back set of games, losing in OT to the Red Wings last night, 2-1 in Toronto. James Reimer made his fourth straight start in goal for the Maple Leafs, including last nights game. And if that wasn’t enough, the Leafs as a team were playing their sixth game in nine nights. And yet, all of that didn’t seem to matter.
The Capitals starting lines for the game:
Washington Capitals Head Coach Barry Trotz debuted the all-Swedish second line tonight, (Marcus Johansson, Nicklas Backstrom and Andre Burakovsky). Trotz was quoted earlier in the week that he was trying to get Burakovsky on a line the helped him flourish offensively. Justin Williams was dropped to the third line in order to allow Burakovsky to move up to the second line.
Toronto played well in the neutral zone in the early stages of this one, stalling the Capitals breakouts and offensive zone entries, and generating their own offensive push. The Capitals power play continued to struggle, which generated no shots on goal for the first power play of the game. Slow starts continue to plague the Capitals. This was the forth straight game in which the Capitals gave up the first goal.
Toronto struck quickly in this one when the Leafs Daniel Winnik scored in transition at 2:36 of 1st to give the Leafs a 1-0 lead. This was only the third time in 14 games that Toronto scored first.
The Leafs were called for the games’ first penalty, too many men on the ice, at the 10:00 mark of the first period. The Capitals power play struggles continued as the Caps were unable to generate a single shot on goal. Brooks Orpik was called for slashing with 23.5 seconds left in the first period. The Caps were able to snuff the Leafs power play for the first period. The Leafs led 1-0 after the first period. This was only the second time in 14 games this season that the Leafs had a lead after the first period. The Capitals led 10-9 in shots on goal for the period.
The Capitals opened the second period with 1:36 remaining on the penalty kill. The PK unit continues to play a pretty stout game, and denied the Leafs of any serious chances. The Leafs Nazem Kadri was called for interference at 4:12, sending the Capitals to their second power play of the game. Alex Ovechkin would tie the game on a nice feed from Evgeny Kuznetsov. The goal tied Ovechkin with Sergei Fedorov for most goals by a Russian-born player in the NHL.
The Capitals went back to the power play when the Leafs Roman Polak was called for interference at 5:26 of the third. Once again the Capitals generated no shots on goal. The Maple Leafs would regain the lead at the 9:27 mark on a sharp-angled shot by James van Riemsdyk.
The Capitals would head back to the power play at the 12:09 mark. The Leafs were called for tripping, giving the Caps a 5-3 for 59 seconds. Toronto was able to kill both penalties. Alex Ovechkin punched in a goal late, but a coaches challenge by Toronto reversed the call to “no-goal”.
HOWEVER, Karma would rein, as Nicklas Backstrom would tie the game on a short knock-in with less than a second left in the game.
Nicklas Backstrom, Matt Niskanen and Karl Alzner started the 3-on-3 period. After a furious back-and-fourth, the overtime period would end scoreless.
The Caps and T.J. Oshie went first and Oshie was denied. The Leafs were stopped on their first attempt. Evgeny Kuznetsov would go second and was denied on his attempt. The Leafs were stopped on their second attempt. Nicklas Backstrom went third and was stopped on his attempt. The Leafs were stopped on their third attempt. Alex Ovechkin would connect on his shot in round four. Braden Holtby would stop the Leafs on their fourth attempt for the win.