Mathieu Perreault is the bright spot in this tough loss. (Photo credit: Mitchell Layton)
Former Caps coach Ron Wilson brought his Toronto Maple Leafs to town looking for some redemption in their beleaguered season. The Washington Capitals meanwhile searched for the first win in their so-far unsuccessful extended home stand and switched up their roster to handle injuries from Sloan, Erskine, Steckel. With Hershey hotshot Mathieu Perreault (hereafter Matthew Perot) pinching in, it looked for a while like the goal-crazy Caps of seasons past had returned. But they leaned back in the third period, and… well, I don’t really have the heart to tell you.
Matty got on the big board on his first shift– less than three minutes into the game, deflecting a wrister off Tom Poti from the paint. Clarke MacArthur responded by shaking off John Carlson and teasing Neuvirth with a pause. It took two swings for Mike Knuble to earn a powerplay goal, the 249th of his career, and regain the lead. Perry struck back from the circles after waiting for a screen. Alex Ovechkin scored a whizzer of a wristshot to give the Caps an insurmountable 4-1 lead. Well, sorta. Mikhail Grabovksi, Tim Brent, and Clarke MacArthur each found their chances to exploit the snoozing home team, evening it up in the final 90 seconds. Overtime came and went. The shootout proved to be Mikhail Grabovski’s shining moment– as a spinarama escaped Michael Neuvirth’s pads. Leafs beat Caps 5-4 (SO).
- Let’s start on a high note. Mathieu Perreault is the very model of a modern second line center. Yeah, he’s teensy, but he’s also a rambunctious little puppy on the puck. Put together with Brooks Laich and Alex Semin, that second line becomes a volatile combo. Perry’s pair of goals should earn him an extended stay on someone’s couch in the region.
- Jeff Schultz caught a puck with his thumb. The fracture will keep him out past Christmas. Scott Hannon: game on.
- John Carlson fell far short of his nicknames tonight. He was on the ice for three Leafs goal and primarily responsible for at least one.
- Returned from a nagging crotch injury, Tom Poti distinguished himself with some offensive production. Poti had three assists, but might have been caught yawning on that final tying goal.
- D.J. King fought Colton Orr. Orr was antagonizing Ovi, so this fight actually had something to do with the game. We’re not gonna be jerks about it. Thanks, Deej!
- Check out Mikhail Grabovski‘s shootout goal. If you’re gonna get beat, get beat by a play this sweet.
- Alex Ovechkin rarely converts on those outside wristers, but he made it happen tonight. And that’s good thing since his standard moves between the circles are now routinely met by pokechecks from the other team. Is Ovi becoming cliché?
The Capitals blew a monster lead in the third period because they stopped moving their feet, they stopped attacking in neutral, they stopped giving a hoot. The defensive reads were off, and the Leafs had enough heart to make the Capitals pay for their carelessness. What should have been a return to form for the boys in red became a sobering lesson in workmanship.
We are now 75% through the longest home stand of the Washington season. The Caps have lost all of those games so far. There are no hyperopic refs to blame to blunt the blow tonight. This one is all on the boys, and that totally sucks. With a parade of injuries weighing them down, a faltering offense and a seeming inability to play a full sixty minute hockey game, the Caps have a lot of problems to work out. Here’s a little motivation: just a couple hundred miles up the way, the Pittsburgh Penguins have just won ten in a row.
Make it happen, guys.