Caps can’t get special teams going in 3-2 loss to Leafs

Capitals goalie Charlie Lindgren stops a shot by Maple Leafs forward William Nylander
© Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

The Capitals went into Thursday’s game against the Toronto Maple Leafs looking to put their season-opening loss to the Boston Bruins behind them and they couldn’t do it, falling on the road in a 3-2 decision.

Goaltender Charlie Lindgren made his Capitals debut on the same night former Washington netminder started his first game for the Leafs. After the Leafs jumped out to an early 1-0 lead with a strong power play, the Capitals stormed back to make it 2-1.

However, Washington couldn’t hold onto the lead as defenseman Calle Jarnkrok and center Auston Matthews pulled Toronto back ahead to send Toronto fans home happy.

Here are the three biggest takeaways from the Capitals’ loss.

Lindgren shows promise with early success

Washington signed Lindgren to a three-year, $3.3 million deal this offseason in a calculated move based on the veteran backup’s success in a limited NHL sample size. Lindgren went 5-0-0 with a 1.22 GAA for the St. Louis Blues last season; he spent most of the year with the AHL’s Springfield Thunderbirds and posted an impressive 2.21 GAA in 34 games there.

Signing him to be their backup behind Darcy Kuemper this season, the Capitals brought in Lindgren rather than stick with either of their goalies from 2021-22 in Samsonov and Vitek Vanecek. Lindgren took the ice Thursday like he will on most second legs of back-to-backs and withstood a potent Leafs offense for most of the night until a costly mistake late.

For the first two periods, Lindgren was fantastic. He stopped 20-of-21 shots in the first period alone, giving up just one goal on a Toronto power play that came at the end of a long possession with a group of tired-out Capitals penalty killers in front of him. The second goal he allowed came in the second period on a high-danger chance created by some smart passing.


For Samsonov, the same up-and-down results that he saw in D.C. were present even with him wearing the blue and white. Toronto didn’t allow a single high-danger chance in the entire first period, yet he served up a pair of scores that were neither on the power play nor the product of an odd-man rush. He picked up the win, but it wasn’t a pretty one.

Capitals’ special teams woes continue into Game 2

After going 0-for-4 on the power play Wednesday against the Bruins, the Capitals were once again shut out on special teams as they failed to convert on any of their five chances in Toronto including one that last for the final 44 seconds of the game.

Washington didn’t generate a single high-danger scoring chance while allowing the Maple Leafs to pick up three such chances shorthanded. The Capitals mustered only three shots on goal in 5-on-4 situations all night.

To make matters worse, the Maple Leafs’ power play looked potent as they cashed in with a goal in the first period and likely would have scored more had it not been for the play of Lindgren. Over their first two games, the Capitals have killed penalties at a rate of just 33%.

Dowd, Johansson provide Capitals’ offense

Just as they did Wednesday, the Capitals scored both of their goals on even-strength situations.

While Washington’s usual suspects such as Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, T.J. Oshie and John Carlson have been held without a goal over their first two games, its fourth line once again stepped up to provide some offense when center Nic Dowd took a slick pass from defenseman Erik Gustafsson to get Washington on the board.

It was then the veteran Marcus Johansson who gave the Capitals their 2-1 lead, scooping up a puck Oshie managed to take away from Toronto and firing it past Samsonov for the score.

After falling to 0-2 on the season, the Capitals will be back in action Saturday against the Montreal Canadiens as they once again look to secure their first win.