CAPITALS at MAPLE LEAFS
SERIES TIED 2-2
Well, that was frustrating. The Leafs came into tonight’s game with a chance to take a stranglehold on the series, and frankly, they were really not good. They had bungled passes and failed clearing attempts all night long. The final score was closer than the play indicated, but let’s try and wade our way through what actually happened. This will be more post mortem than post game.
Pretty much a carbon copy of Monday night’s start, the Caps’ top line hems the Leafs in, Nick Backstrom fires a shot, TJ Oshie tucks the rebound into the open cage to make it 1-0 Caps. Less than 2 minutes later, after Tyler Bozak saw fit to feed someone his stick right in front of the official, Ovi scored from the Ovi spot to make it 2-0. The Leafs would fight back however, as less than a minute later, Jake Gardiner’s point shot deflected off of Zach Hyman and past Braden Holtby to cut the advantage to 2-1. It was shortly after that that the sequence of events that would turn the game decisively for the Capitals would occur. Morgan Rielly snapped a shot on Holtby. It went through his pads and was rolling towards the goal line. Had that gone in, things might have been different. It didn’t though; Tom Wilson dove through the crease to clear it out, then managed to get down the ice in time to tip a Lars Eller shot past Frederik Andersen, who did not have his best showing tonight, to make it 3-1 for the Caps. Minutes later, after running Morgan Rielly with a 20-foot head start, Wilson managed to be on the receiving end of a pass that he buried past Andersen to make it 4-1. That’s how the first period would end.
If you were hoping for things to get better, they did, but not by much; in fact not much happened at all. About five minutes in, Connor Brown managed to outrace the Caps and push a puck on net that was stopped. Seconds later, Brown was defending Niklas Backstrom near the Leafs’ blue line, when Backstrom grabbed his stick and was called for it. The Leafs wasted little time as JvR fired the puck through a Nazem Kadri screen past Holtby to cut the lead to 4-2. It would stay that way until late in the period. Martin Marincin fired a shot from the neutral zone that Braden Holtby stopped, then held for a face off. The NBCSN announcers praised this decision as the Caps had been good on face offs, but what happened on this draw was that Lar Eller either forgot that you’re not allowed to play the puck with your hand off a face off, or decided that he REALLY needed to dig a hole in the ice at that exact moment, because he dropped to the ice and started shoveling with both hands. The whistle was quickly blown and he was escorted to the penalty box, where he was forbidden from doing any more excavation. The decision to take a face off continued to backfire as off the ensuing draw, Brooks Orpik hacked Mitch Marner’s stick in two, and joined Eller in the box as the Leafs would head to the box with a 1:54 5-on-3.
The Leafs came out with a 5-on-3, and generated several fantastic chances. Matthews fed JvR at the side of the net with a 4×6 opening staring him in the face, but he couldn’t bury it. Bozak found himself in a similar situation but couldn’t corral the bouncing puck as the Caps managed to kill off both penalties. Shortly thereafter, they appeared to restore their three-goal lead, as Nate Schmidt blasted a shot from the point that eluded Andersen. It was waved off however, because Niklas Backstrom was contacting Andersen. Barry Trotz challenged the call, and while it seemed that Backstrom was pushed into the crease, he definitely made contact with the Leafs netminder and the call on the ice stood. The Leafs would press until finally Auston Matthews managed to knock down a Matt Hunwick shot and tuck it into the Capitals net, cutting the lead to 4-3 with eight minutes to play in the game. It seemed the Leafs had hope, but that hope was short lived. In what could only be described as a fustercluck just inside their own blue line, Connor Brown took the puck off of Andre Burakovsky, Matthews knocked him down and held him there, as Backstrom stole the puck and feeding TJ Oshie who sniped one past Freddie Andersen that Freddie would probably like to have had. It took all of 59 seconds for the Caps to let the air out of the building. Tyler Bozak would make it look respectable when he scored with 26 seconds left, but the damage was done as the Leafs fell to the Capitals 5-4. Game five will be Friday night in Washington as the Leafs look to regain their series lead.
Washington Goal 2:58 Oshie(1) assisted by Backstrom and Schmidt
Washington Goal 4:34 Ovechkin(3) assisted by Shattenkirk
Toronto Goal 5:16 Hyman(1) assisted by Gardiner and Nylander
Washington Goal 13:41 Wilson(2) assisted by Eller, Orlov
Washington Goal 16:04 Wilson(3) assisted by Burakovsky, Orpik
Toronto Goal 5:39 van Reimsdyk (2) assisted by Rielly and Marner
Toronto Goal 12:00 Matthews (2) assisted by Hunwick and Brown
Washington Goal 12:59 Oshie (2) assisted by Backstrom
Toronto Goal 19:33 Bozak (2) assisted by Marner, Nylander
SHOTS ON GOAL
MIKE BABCOCK – POST GAME
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