As well as the Caps played over the first twenty minutes of Saturday night's 6-3 loss to Toronto, they only held a 2-0 lead heading into the first intermission, having failed to convert on at least a trio of other prime scoring opportunities (chances for Brendan Morrison, Alexander Semin and Alex Ovechkin immediately come to mind). Cash in on any of those, and maybe the Leafs go away. Convert on two or three and the rout would've been on.
That's not what happened, of course, and by the start of the second period the team's fatigue began to show (this was the Caps' third game in four nights and the second of back-to-backs that included some travel headaches in between games). Before the period was six minutes old the game was tied, and only a soft Nicklas Backstrom goal nearly halfway through the period broke up a string of a half dozen consecutive Leafs goals that concluded with a tally that you'd hope Michal Neuvirth can somehow forget.
Ten more notes on the game:
- The last time a Caps goalie gave up six goals in a game was the last game of last season, and Neuvirth probably had the worst sixty-minute performance by a Caps netminder since then. Yes, he had his moments, but on a night when his teammates needed him to steal a game for them - or at least keep them in it - he wasn't up to the task.
- That said, he didn't get much help, as the team in front of him allowed 36 Toronto shots on goal, gave the Leafs a lengthy 5-on-3 power play (of which they only needed 17 seconds to score), and repeatedly failed to tie up opponents in front of the net.
- On a positive note, the Caps' top line dominated the first half of the game, combining for all three goals, a trio of helpers and a plus-six rating. They fell off a bit after that (and Backstrom's failure to win a key draw in his own zone - or at very least to tie up Matt Stajan - led to the game-winning tally), but the Ovechkin-Backstrom duo was as good as it gets early.
- It's tough to stand out amongst a group of blueliners who collectively had an awful night, but that's exactly what John Erskine did. Ersky was credited with four giveaways and a penalty, but the scoresheet doesn't even begin to tell the story of how bad he was. Dishonorable mention here goes to Mike Green, who didn't impress any Team Canada reps tonight.
- Over their last three games, the Caps power play has scored once and been scored upon twice. That's not good, but neither is this: the power play is now 18.6% successful in the games AO has played and 40.6% in the eight games he's missed.
Mike Knuble and Brooks Laich were each minus-two tonight, following up a minus-one apiece Friday night. Given that Laich has one goal in his last 11 games and Knuble has only lit the lamp in one of his past eight games (which includes his time on IR, of course) and that the Caps have looked more like a one-line team over this past week, perhaps it's time to put Knuble back up on the top unit and push Alex Semin to the second line.
- Backstrom's goal made him the Caps' fifth double-digit goal scorer on the season. Morrison's in the on-deck circle with nine and Eric Fehr's in the hole with eight.
- No Cap played less tonight than David Steckel, who got only 9:14 of ice time (but did manage to be on the ice for three goals against... ouch).
- Not to keep harping on Erskine, but given the recent schedule and the back-to-backs, why not dress Tyler Sloan in his place? At least he's got legs. Oh, Toronto's truculent. Nevermind.
- No one in the game had more hits than Chris Clark's three. Really?
Over the past two nights, the Caps have played the two worst teams in the entire NHL (point-wise, at least), and they needed overtime to beat one at home and got beaten handily by the other on the road. And yet there they still sit atop the League standings. Funny what can happen on any given weekend in the NHL...