Capitals vs. Maple Leafs Recap: Early Outburst Proves Good Enough

Paul Frederiksen-USA TODAY Sport

Washington picks up two big points thanks to a strong start

[GameCenter - Ice Tracker - Game Summary - Event Summary - Shot Summary - Faceoff Summary - Play-by-Play - Home TOI - Visitor TOI - Advanced Stats at Extra Skater]

The Washington Capitals and Toronto Maple Leafs are two of the NHL's worst puck possession teams, routinely getting outshot, but occasionally getting bailed out by good goaltending and/or strong power-play performances. On Sunday afternoon, the two teams each put on brutal displays of puck possession for long stretches, but someone had to win this one and the Caps got that strong power-play performance en route to a 4-2 win.

Ten more notes on the game:

  • The Caps opened the scoring early on the power play when Troy Brouwer finished off a sequence of precision passes from the Brouwer Spot. The Caps had the extra man as a result of Mike Green jumping up on the play and stickhandling through the Leafs' defense and drawing the penalty, so good on him for that. Good on Nicklas Backstrom, too, for a terrific job of drawing out a Leafs PKer and then threading the puck down to Marcus Johansson, who fed Brouwer. Solid secondary assist.
  • Not three-and-a-half minutes later, the Caps pushed their lead to two (the dreaded two-goal lead!) with Jason Chimera redirecting (legally, though there was some question) a Joel Ward shot at the goal line (and stealing Ward's 20th goal in the process). Noteworthy on that play was Karl Alzner putting the puck on net rather than his patented off-the-end-boards shot/pass.
  • Ward wouldn't be denied number twenty, however, as he popped in a a power-play goal two minutes later off a nifty feed from Dustin Penner (first Caps point) and Evgeny Kuznetsov (fourth point in the last three periods). The Leafs were clearly in "Don't let Alex Ovechkin beat us on the power play' mode, and... well... they didn't let Alex Ovechkin beat them on the power play, so there's that. But the rest of the Caps had two power-play goals on two power-play shots.
  • Speaking of shots, after spotting the Leafs the game's first shot on goal, the Caps ran off the next 13 (including the three above). Perhaps 13 was unlucky, though, as the Leafs got the next shot... and it went in. Two-goal lead alert!
  • Toronto came out strong in the second period and owned the first half of the frame, halving the Caps' 3-1 lead on a Dion Phaneuf "seeing eye" shot from the point. It was the Leafs' second goal of the game and both came with the Caps' worst defensive pair - Dmitry Orlov and Connor Carrick - and their worst defensive line of forwards - Johansson, Backstrom and Ovechkin - on the ice. You'd think that Adam Oates would avoid that fivesome like the plague, but apparently not.
  • As dominant as the Caps were in the first - outshooting Toronto 14-2 - they were as dominated in the second, outshot 20-6 (with the sixth coming from center ice at the buzzer). But they were only outscored 1-0, thanks to some stellar penalty killing (including eight saves on eight shots), wiping out all three Leafs man-advantages. By the way, if you were at the game, hopefully you had tickets at the end of the ice where the Caps shoot for two of the three periods - through 40 minutes, 34 of the game's 42 shots on goal were in that end of the rink.
  • Just when you're ready to throw Mike Green in the ocean for his frustrating play, he goes out and has a game like he did on Sunday to remind you what he can be - a smooth-skating blueliner who can dictate the pace of a game and has elite vision and playmaking skills.
  • Cristobal Halak was once again solid in net, stopping 27 of the 29 shots he faced. (Did we say Cristobal Halak? We did.)
  • Late in the third, Chimera's speed earned him a decent scoring chance and, as importantly, drew a penalty. It was nearly arguably worth a penalty shot, but that's one time we'd prefer the power-play anyway.
  • Nick Backstrom is very unselfish. Very.

So the Caps take a couple of home wins with them as they head west, which they desperately needed because...

Game highlights:

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