For 40 minutes on Saturday, the Capitals looked like the better team. Sure, they were tied at 2 against the Toronto Maple Leafs, but Washington had gotten the better of the play, they were outshooting Toronto and looked to be in firm control heading into the third period. A bad start to the final frame, however, devolved into a disastrous 20 minutes that saw a 2-2 game turn into a 4-2 loss for Washington.
“I really liked our first two periods keeping a very dangerous hockey team to some limited chances,” Todd Reirden said.
But a poor shift from the top line at the start of the third period set the tone as Toronto suddenly took control.
“We didn’t put puck deep and make couple turnovers,” Evgeny Kuznetsov said. “I think that’s what give them little bit energy.”
The main issue was puck management. Washington suddenly could not get through the neutral zone with the puck. They could not get the puck deep in Toronto’s zone. Turnovers began to creep into their game and the Caps were on their heels defending against a star-studded Toronto offense they had managed to keep in check all game long.
“We didn't manage the puck properly to start the third and in turn we lost some of the momentum of the game and they started to tilt the ice a little bit in their favor,” Reirden said.
“I think we started playing with a little more risk, got a little bit sloppy around the blue lines,” Lars Eller said, “And then we started making some turnovers and I don't know, forcing it a bit and not being as crisp.
“Say it how you want, we got away from our game a little bit in the third.”
With the Caps playing on their heels, Michal Kempny took a high-sticking penalty, the Caps’ third penalty of the game. Taking a penalty in a tie game against a Maple Leafs team that was producing at 50-percent heading into this game was playing with fire. Sure enough, Josh Leivo would tally what would become the game-winner just 41 seconds later.
For 40 minutes, the Caps were the better team. They killed off two power plays, allowed only two goals off deflections and had kept Auston Matthews out of the net. That all changed in the third and it cost Washington the game.
Said Kuznetsov, “That start of third period gave them energy and they got back deep in our zone and that's the probably game-changer.”
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