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Capitals vs. Maple Leafs Recap: Leafs Hold Off Caps Comeback in 5-3 Win

Tom Wilson’s two goals are not enough to push the Caps past Toronto, extending the home losing streak to six games.

Toronto Maple Leafs v Washington Capitals Photo by John McCreary/NHLI via Getty Images

Tonight is the first time the Washington Capitals and Toronto Maple Leafs have played since 2019. The Capitals are coming off a disappointing showing in Philadelphia on Saturday afternoon, and the Maple Leafs are coming off an absolutely wild game in Detroit on Saturday night that ended with a 10-7 Leafs victory.

Tonight is the Capitals’ Black History Night, which featured special warm-up jerseys and a ceremonial puck drop with Bill Riley and Kryshanda Green. It also featured these lines from the Capitals:

Daniel Sprong is still a healthy scratch, and Justin Schultz is still out of the lineup with an upper body injury. Ilya Samsonov started in net for the Caps with Vitek Vanecek (!) sitting back-up. Petr Mrazek started opposite Samsonov and the recently struggling Jack Campbell started on the bench. The Caps are looking to snap a five-game losing streak on home ice. Let’s do that hockey.

Here’s Monday night’s Plus/Minus:

Plus: In his first NHL game since February 1, Vitek Vanecek was strong in relief of Ilya Samsonov. Despite playing in an AHL game yesterday, he looked steady in net and made an effort to tighten his game up.

Minus: Ilya Samsonov, on the other hand, had a...rough outing tonight.

And now, this:

Thirteen more notes on the game:

1. Michael Bunting opened the scoring just 2:35 after the opening puck drop. Mitch Marner made a perfect lift check on Martin Fehervary in the corner, and Fehervary made the situation worse by losing an edge and crashing into the boards. Marner continued the play uninhibited and fed a perfect pass to Michael Bunting in the slot, who roofed it past Ilya Samsonov. 1-0 Toronto.

2. Evgeny Kuznetsov took a seat for tripping Ilya Lyubushkin in the offensive zone at 9:32 of the first, putting the league’s best power play (30% on the season) on the ice for the first time tonight. Thankfully, the Capitals’ PK managed to hold Toronto to zero shots on the power play and keep the Leafs’ lead to one.

3. With 3:37 left in the first period, Conor Sheary tied things up with a beautiful deflection past Petr Mrazek. Nicklas Backstrom fired a center point shot on net, and Sheary had his stick in the perfect position to redirect it to the back of the net. This was Sheary’s 12th goal of the season, which is fourth-most on the team.

4. William Nylander put the Leafs back on top with a sweet sharp angle shot from below the edge of the right circle. John Tavares set the play up nicely, evading both Lars Eller and John Carlson behind the net and finding Nylander with a pass from below the goal line. Nylander’s shot zipped past Samsonov short-side and restored Toronto’s lead.

5. With just 1.6 seconds before first intermission, the Leafs capitalized on a defensive breakdown from Washington and took their first two-goal lead of the game. Samsonov slid too far out of position on the initial shot, and Justin Holl snuck in down in front and tapped the puck loose and into the back of the net. That’s two goals in 71 seconds for Toronto, and it’s 3-1 after one.

6. Vitek Vanecek started the second period for the Capitals after Ilya Samsonov allowed three goals on ten shots in the first. Vanecek is fresh off a rehab appearance in Hershey last night, and this is Vanecek’s first NHL game since February 1.

7. The Capitals got their first power play opportunity 1:44 into the second when Michael Bunting took a trip to the sin bin for holding. The Leafs have the fourth-best PK in the NHL right now and have not allowed a PPG in five of their last six games. The Caps have…what they call a power play. Immovable object, meet stoppable force. Washington’s power play had all of 39 seconds of zone time and zero shots this go around.

8. Pierre Engvall was called for tripping Tom Wilson at 8:34 of the second, giving Washington’s power play a chance to redeem itself. Shockingly, Tom Wilson said don’t mind if I do and scored a power play goal. After 1:37 of a pretty solid power play, Alex Ovechkin looked like he was about to fire one of his patented one-timers on net but he fed a snappy pass to Tom Wilson instead. Wilson was waiting in the slot and redirected the puck perfectly past Mrazek. 3-2 Caps with 9:49 to go.

9. With 6:24 to go in the middle frame, Lars Eller got dinged for interference on Alex Kerfoot to give Toronto their second power play chance of the night. Despite Toronto’s power play coming into tonight’s game at the top of the league, Washington’s PK once again completely disrupted the Leafs’ man-advantage and kept them off the board.

Just 22 seconds after Eller’s penalty expired, Michael Bunting was called for tripping Eller. This Washington power play was not nearly as good as the last one, recording just one shot on goal, but it was better than the first one of the night.

10. Evgeny Kuznetsov took his second offensive-zone penalty of the game a mere 49 seconds into the third period after he hooked Timothy Liljegren. There was a goal during this Toronto power play, but it was from some guy named Tom Wilson. Wilson got a rush going down the ice with Lars Eller and he completely fooled Morgan Rielly (or, as most of us know him, Tessa Virtue’s boyfriend) and Mrazek into thinking he would pass the puck. Instead, Wilson fired it on net and beat Mrazek cleanly to record his second multi-goal game of the season. 3-3 Washington with 18:16 to go.

11. Lars Eller took his second penalty of the game 5:41 into the third, this one for slashing against David Kampf. Washington’s strong penalty kill showing continued, most notably from Conor Sheary this go around with an excellent shorthanded effort. The Caps were once again able to stymie Toronto’s power play, keeping them at 0-for-4 with zero shots on the night.

12. Trevor van Riemsdyk and Wayne Simmonds took matching roughing minors at 15:02 of the third after things got a little chippy, cueing up some four-on-four hockey. Martin Fehervary was the victim of another lift check, this one from Tavares right behind Vanecek’s net. Tavares sent the puck to Justin Holl who made a great pass to Rasmus Sandin, who had a wide open net to work with after Vanecek could not get to the other side of the crease fast enough. 4-3 Leafs.

13. Pierre Engvall got his second of the game after Vanecek left the ice for the extra attacker, sealing the deal for a 5-3 Toronto win with an empty netter at 18:59. The Caps’ home ice losing streak is now at six games.

Up next for the Caps: continuing the homestand with a matchup against the Carolina Hurricanes this Thursday at 7PM, which is the Capitals’ Pride Night!