For the first fifty minutes of the game, it looked like the Capitals had really taken the lessons from their last game to heart. For the first fifty minutes they mostly outworked the Maple Leafs, cycling the puck, establishing a net presence, picking up rebounds - basically doing everything they didn't do against Atlanta. And for most of that first fifty minutes, it showed on the scoreboard.
Unfortunately so did the last ten minutes, and the eventual loss via the shootout - their third straight.
Ten more notes on the game:
- It was great to see Alex Ovechkin get on the board for the second straight game after such a long goalless drought. Not so great was the lazy shift that led to the Leafs' second goal early in the third period, or the fact that he was on the ice for the game-tying goal late in the game.
- The Caps opened the scoring with a great display of forechecking by the trio of Alexander Semin, Brooks Laich and Mathieu Perreault. The three skated circles around the Toronto defenders and got on the board after getting not one, not two but three bodies stacked in front of Jonas Gustavsson. Huh...forechecking and establishing a net presence can result in a goal. Who knew?
- Mike Knuble's goal was the result of following up on the initial shot, gathering a rebound and firing it home. So wait...you can also score off of second and third chances? Now you're just talking crazy talk.
- We know by now that Perreault has some nice speed, great stickhandling skills and the ability to provide offense in spurts. We also know that he meshes quite well with Semin and Laich, a fact that was on display tonight with Perreault's two goals. The key for him now is to prove he can do it over long stretches of time - the second-line center spot is there for the taking, and it would seem that his chances at grabbing it are running out.
- Ah, but it wasn't all Caps early on, as a turnover by Karl Alzner on the penalty kill led to Clarke MacArthur's first goal of the night - one in which he had all day to pick his spot, partly because of the room he had to work and partly because Michal Neuvirth went down awfully early.
- Neuvirth had something of an interesting night, victimized at times by deflections and turnovers by the team in front of him and making the occasional Neuvirth-esque saves yet never quite looking comfortable in net.
- Not only did the Caps use traffic in front of the net to score goals and create offensive chances, they also used it to draw penalties. Toronto was whistled for not one but two infractions in their own crease as the hard work of the Washington forecheckers paid off.
- For about half the game, Caps fans got a glimpse of what their top six defensemen could look like when healthy, and it was not half bad. Hope you didn't blink, though, because just as things were getting settled on the blue line the Caps lost yet another defenseman to injury. This time it was Jeff Schultz, who blocked a shot with his hand. The prognosis? Fractured thumb, out four to six weeks. Great.
- What in the name of Nicklas Backstrom was Mikhail Grabovski doing on his shootout attempt? Some may call it flashy and fun, others may call it unnecessary hotdogging...po-tay-to, po-tah-to.
- After yet another stretch of games missed with that nagging groin injury, Tom Poti had yet another strong game in his return. Poti picked up three assists, was a plus-one on the night and blocked three shots. He also seemed to mesh fairly well with the newest addition to the blue line, Scott Hannan, as the two provided a nice complement to the four youngsters ahead of them on the depth chart. About three minutes apiece on the penalty kill, too, with no goals against.
When the Leafs scored early in the third to cut the three-goal lead to two, it instantly brought back flashbacks of the last time these two teams met - when the Caps held a 4-1 lead and then simply stopped skating, allowing a relatively anemic Toronto offense to claw back into the game and force overtime and then a shootout. It's a memory that is still fresh for a lot of us, and you'd think would still be fresh for the Caps.
You know what they say - those who fail to learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat it.