Oops, they did it again.
For the second straight game, the Washington Capitals took a 2-1 lead into the third period, looking for their first road win of 2013. And for the second straight time, they coughed up the lead and left the enemy ice without a point.
Nikolai Kulemin and Matt Frattin both scored third period goals for the Toronto Maple Leafs as they completed a comeback victory over the Caps at the Air Canada Centre. Washington survived eight Toronto power plays in the first two periods but couldn’t overcome a late even strength surge that saw the Leafs fire 16 shots in the last 20 minutes.
Kulemin’s game-tying tally came after one of the few shots that eluded Capitals goalie Michal Neuvirth, who made 37 saves on the night. He got himself in front of a big point shot from Mike Kostka, but the puck settled in the crease right behind him, and Kulemin was able to hustle in and jab it across the line with 12:20 left to play.
The decisive goal came just over two minutes later on a pretty give-and-go int he Washington zone. Frattin scooped the puck off the wall and slid it to Nazem Kadri, who managed to slip it through traffic in front of Neuvirth for Frattin to slide into an empty net while falling down.
Alex Ovechkin made sure there was some late game drama by circling the Maple Leafs net twice in the final minute. He got the puck back and fired a shot that looked like it had Toronto’s James Reimer beaten, but the blast sailed wide and the final buzzer followed shortly thereafter.
Ovechkin did record his second goal of 2013 with a wrister through Reimer on a second period power play. Mike Ribeiro set up that goal, as well as the first score of the game by Joel Ward, his fourth of the season.
James van Riemsdyk also scored his fourth by cashing in on a power play in the first period. The Capitals penalty killers were called on early and often, with Washington whistled for five straight infractions in the first and three straight in the second. Unsurprisingly, the Caps were outshot in every period and 40-22 for the game.
Penalties aside, it was the late game fade at even strength that will no doubt haunt the thoughts of Washington coach Adam Oates. The good news is that the mini road trip is over, and the Caps will have a chance to pay the Leafs back at home next Tuesday. The bad news is that there are tilts with the Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins before that.
Oh, and there’s bound to be some soul-searching over the next few days as well.
The game was over when…
The Caps were trapped in their own zone with just over a minute to play, killing off precious time when they could have had Neuvirth off the ice for an extra attacker. Yes, Ovi still got a chance to get a good look, but it might not have had to be the last gasp if his teammates could have cleared the zone with more time left.
The unsung Capitals hero was…
It’s tempting to say all of the penalty killers, but they were hardly unsung while killing off seven power plays in the first 40 minutes. So we’ll go with Neuvirth here, as he kept the game within reach even after Washington gave up the lead. He stoned van Riemsdyk on a breakaway and made the right reads on several two-on-one chances, and he generally looked more solid than his opposite number even though he took the loss.