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The Afternoon Narrative: That 5-on-3 (Part Deux), That Third Period (Part Deux) and Zebras

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Three things we’re talking about this afternoon when we’re talking about the Caps

Photo by Gerry Angus/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

1. With seven seconds left in the second period and a faceoff to Braden Holtby’s left, the Caps were moments away from surviving a late-stanza Leafs’ push and getting to intermission with a two-goal lead. The good news? They made it. The bad news? In those seven seconds, the Caps managed to take two penalties (Lars Eller putting his hand on the puck in the scrum following the draw, which is a no-no, and Brooks Orpik hacking Mitch Marner’s stick in half four hockey seconds later), setting up a nearly full two-minute five-on-three Leafs advantage to start the third period (on fresh ice, no less).

The parallels to the Caps’ Game 3 opportunity were obvious, if not perfectly analogous (being up two goals versus down a pair changes the calculus some). But the results were the same: nada. Here’s how it went down:

That’s five shots on goal - including three from 15 feet or closer and one from 21 feet out - and another two that missed the net. That’s a whole lot of Braden Holtby being Braden Holtby (which hasn’t necessarily been the case throughout the series), with some help from the guys in front of him:

The Leafs eventually did get that third goal to cut the lead in half, of course, but who knows what happens if they get it in those first two minutes?

On a tangentially related note, the Caps have now spent more time at 5-on-3 in the playoffs than they did during the regular season. How about that?

2. Despite not capitalizing on that five-on-three, for the second-straight game, the Leafs took it to the Caps in the third period (at least this time, it wasn’t in a tied game). Per Natural Stat Trick, Including the power play, the Leafs out-attempted the Caps 37-8 in the third and outshot them 19-3 (21-8/10-3 at five on five). Graphically it looked like this:

... which comes on the heels of a third period that looked like this:

In other words, in the last two third periods, the Leafs have completely tilted the ice in their favor with a 65-17 edge in attempts (38-6 on goal) overall, and 38-16/15-6 at five on five.

Well, yes, there is that. But score effects, resiliency, youthful exuberance and everything else notwithstanding, that’s a brutal discrepancy, and something the Caps have to fix. Immediately.

Bingo.

3. Alright, let’s talk officiating. The refs waved off a would-be (enormous) Caps goal, and the League office in Toronto (get your tinfoil hats on!) upheld the call on the ice. Here’s the play in question:

And here’s how the League explained the result of the review:

At 8:11 of the third period in the Capitals/Maple Leafs game, Washington requested a Coach's Challenge to review the "Interference on the Goalkeeper" decision that resulted in a "no goal" call.

After reviewing all available replays and consulting with NHL Hockey Operations staff, the Referee determined that Washington's Nicklas Backstrom interfered with Toronto goaltender Frederik Andersen.

Therefore the original call stands - no goal Washington Capitals.

In other words, there was interference, therefore there was interference - not much of an explanation. How about “Backstrom was not pushed into Andersen and made an insufficient effort to get out of the crease” or something similar? We might (would) still disagree, but at least it would be something more than “because we say so, that’s why.”

That’s sure how it looked from here.

Later, in the waning moments of the game, the Leafs potted their fourth goal, after which Braden Holtby immediately appealed to the referee for an interference call, to no avail. The League initiated a review and determined the following (video at the link):

At 19:33 of the third period in the Capitals/Maple Leafs game, the Situation Room initiated a review under the terms of a Coach's Challenge to review whether a Toronto player interfered with Washington goaltender Braden Holtby prior to Tyler Bozak's goal.

After reviewing all available replays and consulting with NHL Hockey Operations staff, the Referee confirmed no goaltender interference infractions occurred.

That’s probably the right call, but there is and has been an inconsistency on this stuff and that’s not going anywhere, it seems. Even card-carrying goalie guild member Roberto Luongo can’t figure this stuff out...

Those calls are going to be coin flips the rest of the way, so all you can do is hope the refs call ‘em in the Caps’ favor get them right.

Of course, one thing that the officials should be doing - but aren’t - that doesn’t rely on hope is dropping the puck after icings in a timely manner and/or penalizing teams that prevent them from doing so.

You’ve probably noticed. The Caps certainly have. Why haven’t the officials?