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Recap: Leafs 2, Caps 1 (SO)

[AP Recap - GameCenter - Game Summary - Event Summary]

Injuries should never be an excuse for a loss. Neither should playing the second of back-to-back games.

But sometimes, on very rare occasions, it's okay to look at a game and know that fresh legs - and more of them - would have made a huge difference. With the injury count ratcheting up and new faces arriving every day, there will come a point when it's just too much.

That seemed to be the problem tonight, as the Capitals looked sluggish and allowed the 14th-place Maple Leafs to hang around a bit too long. The Caps put in a valiant effort, particularly as the game went on, but simply had no jump, no attack and no answer for a Leafs team that came to play.

Ten more notes on the game:

  • Hard to argue with any part of Semyon Varlamov's performance tonight. Minus the fluky and unfortunate goal Niklas Hagman picked up in the second, Varlamov was perfect and was the biggest reason why this team even got to the shootout - let alone made it out of regulation with a tied game. Turning aside 38 of 39 shots is certainly a great way to stake your claim at the #1 spot.
  • John Erskine: four hits, four giveaways. Mike Green: five hits, four giveaways. Yeah...that's not really the type of symmetry we're looking for there, boys.
  • Alex Ovechkin scored his second goal in three games since returning to the lineup; still, he doesn't quite look like himself yet. Everything's a little off and while he still fired 12 shots toward Toskala, 6 of them hitting their mark, he was also victimized for more turnovers than the one that appears on the scoresheet and registered just one hit. That goal (and passing play that led up to it) was pretty darn sweet, though.
  • Amazingly, Bill McCreary whistled the Caps for just two penalties all night and laid off the whistle at times when the Caps probably could have gone shorthanded (including twice in overtime). Even more amazingly, they killed both of them off. But getting four power plays and yet not registering a single extra-man goal against the league's worst penalty kill is simply inexcusable.
  • There's a theory that babies are so cute and cuddly to insure they survive past infancy. It's kind of the same with Vesa Toskala - every now and then he pulls games like this out of nowhere to insure he still has an NHL contract. 
  • Two games in, and John Carlson is looking pretty comfortable out there. He uses his size well and isn't afraid to shoot the puck, although he did finish a -1 because he didn't think to take Hagman's forearm out of the play. Still needs some time to develop, but if and when he does this kid is going to be something.
  • In other call-up news, it's hard to fathom why Andrew Gordon was given just over six minutes of ice time in this game - and no time in the third period. It's not like he was a standout (good or bad), but not many people in red were tonight.
  • While their legs weren't exactly moving all that well, the Caps did manage to get in the way of 24 Toronto shots, with thirteen denting the foursome of Pothier, Sloan, Green and Schultz. At the same time...why was Toronto allowed to fire 63 shots toward Varlamov (and miss another 23)?
  • Rough night across the board on faceoffs, with the Caps winning just 28 of 59 draws and usual stalwart David Steckel uncharacteristically coming up below 50%. But how about Nicklas Backstrom winning eleven of eighteen for a flashy 61%?
  • Ovechkin might have had an off-night, but his top line sidekick Brooks Laich most certainly did not. In just over 22 minutes (including about half of all special teams time) Laich had a nice assist on the goal, six shots, two more that missed or were blocked, two hits and one blocked shot. He was 0-for-2 on faceoffs, though...slacker.
So after dominating every Eastern team not in the Atlantic Division, the Caps have now dropped two straight to the bottom part of the Northeast. And in this mini tour of Canadian teams, the best of the three is still looming Monday night. It's a troubling time for a team that continues to lose man-games to injury and continues to struggle with putting in full 60 minute performances every night.

But the wounded will heal, the injured will return. The lines will regain their consistency - or at least as much consistency as the Caps' lines ever have. Ovechkin won't be "off" forever (and he'll still score when he is).

And remember, there are only six Canadian teams. So...we've got that going for us.

Which is nice.

Game highlights: