Familiar script for Caps in one-goal loss to Leafs
The slumped shoulders and slammed sticks told the story. So too did the angry boos from the stands.
The Capitals have had their issues early in this lockout-shortened 2013 season and all of them were on display in the first period of Tuesday's game against the Toronto Maple Leafs: An inability to finish at the offensive end, suspect goaltending and some deflating miscommunications in their defensive zone.
It eventually added up to a frustrating 3-2 loss to the Maple Leafs on Tuesday night at the Verizon Center. James van Riemsdyk scored two goals for Toronto, which never trailed. Marcus Johansson recorded his first goal of the season for the Caps in a losing effort.
"You run out of clich?s to say to the guys, obviously," said Washington coach Adam Oates, whose team lost by a single goal for the fourth time this season.
Washington (2-7-1, five points) fell behind 2-0 thanks to a pair of ugly goals. Van Riemsdyk scored both of them for the Maple Leafs (5-5-0, 10 points). The first one 10 minutes into the contest came after a brutal miscommunication between Caps goalie Michal Neuvirth and defenseman Tom Poti behind the net. Neuvirth (18 saves) left the puck, Poti didn't realize it and Van Riemsdyk stole it and used his long reach to wrap around the net and score.
"I had the puck and I saw [Poti] was coming towards me and I left the puck there," Neuvirth said. "Easy goal for them."
Just 2:35 later Toronto struck again. A muffed shot by Cody Franson in the high slot slid directly to Van Riemsdyk all alone to Neuvirth's left. His first whack at the puck was stopped brilliantly, but he scored on his second attempt to make it 2-0.
It was a power play goal that finally got the Caps into the game. Nicklas Backstrom stole the puck from Maple Leafs goalie Ben Scrivens and threaded a pass from behind the net to defenseman Tomas Kundratek, who made a beautiful feed of his own down low to Johansson. He stopped the puck with his skate and lifted an easy shot over Scrivens to put Washington on the board.
But another soft goal doomed the Caps. Toronto defenseman Korbinian Holzer recorded his first NHL goal on just his fourth career shot when he beat Neuvirth from just inside the blue line. The puck deflected off Caps forward Jason Chimera and slid between Neuvirth's pads to make it 3-1 at 10:34 of the second period.
There would be no comeback -- though 47 seconds after a Maple Leafs penalty in the third period Alexander Ovechkin tore up the left wing, drew the attention of several defenders and then slid the puck to Troy Brouwer in the slot. He shifted a pass to Mike Riberio on the right wing all alone and he beat Scrivens to cut the lead to 3-2. But that was it for the scoring.
"The bounces went their way, but I really don't have the answers," forward Matt Hendricks said. "I'm having a hard time with this."