Capitals

Quick Links

Maple Leafs beat Capitals 3-2 for first home win

201301311956717978855-p2.jpeg

Maple Leafs beat Capitals 3-2 for first home win

TORONTO (AP) Nikolai Kulemin and Matt Frattin scored third-period goals to give the Toronto Maple Leafs their first home win of the season with a 3-2 comeback victory over the struggling Washington Capitals on Thursday night.

Kulemin tied it 2-all at 7:40 of the third, poking in a puck that squeezed through Michal Neuvirth's legs following Michael Kostka's shot from the point. As the Washington goalie tried in vain to squeeze his pads, Kulemin reached behind and nudged the puck in for his first of the year.

Frattin made it 3-2, capping a nice passing play with Nazem Kadri at 9:53 by tapping in the puck for his fourth goal - and sixth point - in four games.

The Maple Leafs lived dangerously in the final minutes as the Capitals (1-5-1) pressed for a tying goal that never came.

James van Riemsdyk also scored for Toronto (4-3-0), which outshot Washington 40-22. The Maple Leafs had their chances to take control earlier in the game, but a lack of clinical finishing and a failure to convert numerous power-play opportunities frustrated them before 19,374 at the Air Canada Centre.

Toronto, which came into the game ranked 20th on the power play, went 1 for 8 with the man-advantage. There were no penalties in the third period.

Alex Ovechkin doubled his goal output on the season when he scored on the power play at 2:38 of the second period, drilling a low wrist shot through James Reimer from just outside the faceoff circle for a 2-1 lead.

Joel Ward opened the scoring for Washington, which has yet to win on the road. Mike Ribeiro had two assists, upping his scoring total to one goal and seven assists.

Before the game, Ward noted on Twitter that baseball icon Jackie Robinson would have turned 94 on Thursday.

``Hope I represent the number well! 42,'' tweeted Ward, who wears the number in Robinson's honor.

The Capitals went ahead within the first 2 minutes of the game but then were assessed five straight penalties in the next 9 minutes and were outshot 15-7 in the first period. Toronto was on the power play for 6:11 of the first 20 minutes, managing to take advantage once.

Thanks to Ovechkin, the Caps led 2-1 midway through the game despite having only 10 shots.

The Leafs were coming off a 4-3 overtime win in Buffalo on Tuesday. Washington lost 3-2 in Ottawa the same night, giving up a 2-0 lead and conceding the winning goal on the power play with 2:30 remaining.

Going into the game, both teams had snipers stuck in neutral.

Ovechkin, who arrived with one goal and one assist, hasn't had an even-strength goal in his last 10 games, dating back to the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs.

The Leafs showed him little respect, with captain Dion Phaneuf bowling him over in the Washington crease in the first period. The Capitals star did not manage a shot on goal in the first period.

Toronto sniper Phil Kessel, meanwhile, entered the game goalless with three assists in his first six games - failing to score on 27 shots in his bid for his 100th goal with the Maple Leafs.

His drought continued in the first period as Neuvirth stoned him from in close during a 4-minute power play with Jason Chimera off for hooking and unsportsmanlike conduct.

But a Kessel shot on the extended power play led to van Riemsdyk's goal as the big forward, stationed in front like a lamppost, tucked in the rebound for his fourth of the season at 8:19.

The Caps had jumped into the lead at 1:36 when Ribeiro, angling the puck from behind the goal, threaded a pass through several Toronto defenders to an unmarked Ward who fired it in.

Kessel, who had five shots in the first 40 minutes, was somehow denied by Neuvirth midway through the second when he tucked a shot between his legs from in-close. Neuvirth did it again with a glove save in the third.

Neuvirth, who deserved a better result, also stopped van Riemsdyk on a late breakaway.

Clarke MacArthur (finger), Mike Komisarek (eye) and Mike Brown (shoulder) sat out for the Leafs.

NOTES: Toronto claimed 6-foot-5, 230-pound forward Frazer McLaren off waivers from San Jose. The Maple Leafs also called up Marlies captain Ryan Hamilton and placed Mike Brown on injured reserve after he hurt his shoulder in a fight Tuesday. ... Washington forward Brooks Laich, recovering from a groin injury sustained playing in Europe during the lockout, took part in the morning skate for the first time this season. ... Toronto's homestand continues Saturday against Boston and Monday against Carolina.

Quick Links

There are no moral victories, but Caps see a defensive effort they can build on in Tuesday's loss

usatsi_10353436.jpg
USA TODAY Sports

There are no moral victories, but Caps see a defensive effort they can build on in Tuesday's loss

The Capitals probably deserved a better result on Tuesday than a 2-0 loss at the hands of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Coming into that game, the Leafs were averaging 5.20 goals per game and had scored no fewer than three in any of their five games to start the season. Yet, a Capitals team fresh off an 8-2 loss against the Philadelphia Flyers managed to hold Toronto’s offense to only one goal, the second coming only after Braden Holtby had been pulled for the extra attacker.

“There's a lot of improvements from our game in Philadelphia, that's for sure,” Barry Trotz said following the game.

Aside from a flurry of chances from Toronto early in the first, the game was largely even between the two sides until Connor Brown put the Leafs up 1-0 in the third period.

RELATED: EVGENY KUZNETSOV COULD HAVE CHANGED TUESDAY'S GAME, HERE'S HOW

Despite their effort, however, do not take this game as proof that Washington has solved all of its blue line issues. Tuesday was just merely a step in the right direction.

“We did some things better [Tuesday],” Braden Holtby said. “The outcome could have been a little worse if luck wasn't on our side today on a few plays. We've got to keep a realistic mindset on that too.  But we did a lot of good things [Tuesday]. Our defense did a really good job at handling their speed and their size.”

Surprisingly, it was not the defense that cost Washington the game, but the offense. When the Caps needed a goal, they simply could not generate one against goalie Frederik Andersen.

Yes, the team needs to find more of a balance and get a full 60-minute effort on both ends of the ice, but there was also hope in the locker room on Tuesday that if they continue to improve in their own zone, it will ultimately lead to more offense in the other end.

“Everything is developed from the defensive zone,” Holtby said. “That's the way we've always had success scoring goals. If you're taking risks offensively, that's not a consistent way to play. You might win some games, but you're not going to win games consistently. That's what our foundation of our team is built around, our breakout, especially on our goal line and that what creates a lot of our offense.”

MORE CAPITALS: WHO STOOD OUT IN TUESDAY'S DEFENSIVE BATTLE?

What the first seven games of the season has shown is that the Capitals’ fate rests on its blue line. Yes, they need more depth scoring from their third and fourth line, but this team’s weakness is its defense. How they respond to their early struggles will determine the fate of the season.

“We'd be kidding ourselves if we're not going to have some growing pains along the way,” Holtby said of the team. “It's just how we handle them and what we do with them. How do we fight through them and get better?”

Tuesday’s game may have ended in a loss, but it was an effort the defense can build around. That is the silver lining. If they do build on this game, the Capitals still have a playoff caliber roster. If they do not, well, there is no telling how far Washington can sink.

Quick Links

Prediction recap: No one saw Tuesday's defensive matchup coming

usatsi_10353321.jpg
USA TODAY Sports

Prediction recap: No one saw Tuesday's defensive matchup coming

Well…that certainly did not go the way many thought. With two of the best offenses squaring off against two questionable defenses, the goals were expected to come fast and furious on Tuesday between the Washington Capitals and Toronto Maple Leafs. Instead, Braden Holtby and Frederik Andersen allowed only one goal between them on the night with Toronto adding and empty netter for the exclamation point in a 2-0 win over the Caps.

So this was a game that did not go at all the way anyone expected. With that in mind, let’s go over the predictions!

RELATED: WHEN THE OFFENSE WENT SILENT, HERE ARE THE CAPS WHO STOOD OUT ON DEFENSE

Fan predictions:

Wrong

After allowing eight goals to the Philadelphia Flyers, the Caps did a good job stifling one of the NHL’s bright young talents. Matthews only managed one shot on goal for the game.

Wrong

After a strong start for the Caps’ offense, no one was able to get one past, least of all Andre Burakovsky despite four shots on goal and seven total shot attempts.

Push

There was no overtime and I really liked just how bold this prediction was, so I will give it a push.​

JJ’s predictions:

Both teams will combine for at least 10 goals – Wrong

I was close though, only eight goals short.

Evgeny Kuznetsov will score a goal – Wrong

Had Kuznetsov shot the puck before he was caught on the backcheck on his power play opportunity in the second period, I may very well have gotten this one right. But Kuznetsov once again resorted to the bad habit of waiting too long to get the shot off and it turned a great opportunity into a much more manageable one for Andersen.

Toronto will outshoot Washington by at least 10 shots – Wrong

Heading into Tuesday’s game, the Caps had only managed to outshoot their opponents once in six games. Toronto had been held to fewer than 31 shots only once in five games. So what happened? The Caps and Leafs each managed 30 shots on goal. Go figure.

MORE CAPITALS: TYLER GRAOVAC'S GAME ENDED EARLY ON TUESDAY, HERE'S WHY

Scoreboard:

Fans
Correct: 0
Wrong: 2
Push: 1

JJ
Correct: 0
Wrong: 3
Push: 0

Both the fans and I are off to a roaring start. Better luck next game.

Want to see your tweet among the fan predictions for the next game? Tweet your prediction to @JJReganNBCS every game day! Remember, we don’t just want to know who will win or the score, we want to see specifics. Be bold!