Leafs beat Caps 5-4, Stunning Comeback

Mathieu Perreault celebrates his first goal of the year

Mathieu Perreault is the bright spot in this tough loss. (Photo credit: Mitchell Layton)

CAPTION (Photo credit: Mitchell Layton)

Colton Orr helps D.J. King with some facial redecoration. (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.

Joe B's suit of the night

Joe B's suit of the night

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.

  • That Grabovski tally was ridiculous.

  • TheHornGuy

    The sad thig is that this team is much better than the effort they put forth tonight. They entered the 3rd period already looking to Thursday. It was evident they just didn’t care anymore. There’s no excuse for it. I firmly believe that Boudreau is not at fault for this. This is all the players’ mess.

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  • DarkStranger44

    This is the type of game where I think some benching of stars is needed. I would say that if the Caps have a third period lead in the next game, the first line should sit out for the last half of Period 3 and let the lower lines be the ones to protect the lead.

  • Peter Hassett


    I think that woulda won the game.

  • BobbyG

    More good news, bad news from this game. Also some very ugly too.

    Whoopee! Ovie scored again for the good. For the bad–I’m not too thrilled that the Caps have lost the past 2 games when he did score, 3 straight overall. I said on this blog earlier: if I had to choose I’d rather Ovie get only assists if the Caps keep winning instead of him scoring goals in games the Caps lose. Hopefully Ovie scoring goals and the Caps winning games will occur simultaneously soon.

    @DarkStranger44: there’s a lot of merit in what you suggest. Maybe Coach Boudreau should give it a try, as well as having another bag skate day at practice.

    Now for the very ugly: I’d also like to see the Caps not blow 4-1 leads they had going into the 3rd period as they did tonight against…the Toronto Maple Leafs? Give me a break. This is unacceptable for a team that hopes to go deep into the playoffs this year.

    I know one thing: if the Stanley Cup playoffs started tomorrow I don’t like the Caps chances against any elite team, especially the Pens. This team needs to develop a killer instinct to finish off lesser teams. The Caps too often either play down to their opponent, underestimate their opponent, or relax and try to coast with a lead. Bad habits cannot be allowed to fester and grow, or else the Caps are in danger of repeating their pattern of early playoff exits.

  • Great to see Matty P. I knew he’d make this a statement game for himself, and he did. Unfortunately, it was a statement game in other ways too, the statement being, history keeps repeating itself for this team. How long have we been hearing about how the Caps need to play a full 60 minutes, or how we need to get that killer instinct and put a team away when we have a lead? Or that we need to tighten up defensively? This game highlighted all of the Caps’ consistent, persistent problems. Meanwhile the Pens are winning games like they’re just taking candy from babies. It’s embarrassing, and as a fan who pays a lot of money for my season tickets, it makes me mad. I want to see the team work as hard at the games as I do to be able to (barely) afford to attend them. I am pissed tonight.

    Also, should we be looking to the Captain in times like these? I think we should. I always believed Brooks should have been captain after Clark was traded and I still believe that. I’m tired of seeing Ovi stand around, decline to truly compete. I don’t remember the last time I saw Brooks stand around and wait for people to make things happen around him.

  • Tim

    There is one major factor I haven’t seen mentioned. The Caps defensive collapse coincided with the loss of Schultz. It’s not the sole reason, but that messed up the defense. Poti and Hannan each took 3 more shifts in the 3rd than any other period and Green took 2 more, all covering for the lack of Schultz. Considering that most of those shifts were a minute or more, and that they were paired with dmen they don’t usually work with, that adds up to a lot of problems.

    Other than that, the Caps simply blew it. Semin and Laich spent far too much time trying to get MP the hat trick rather than scoring, and the 1st line played sloppy in the 3rd.

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  • Em

    God, if the Caps don’t do some serious soul searching and ship-righting in the next 48 hours, the Pens are going to absolutely embarrass them in the Winter Classic. On national television. Look at that, I can’t even call the Caps “us” today, I hate them so much.

  • Dawn

    I agree with Katie. As much as I love Ovie, Brooks really should have been made Captain after Chris Clark was traded. He has the mindset for a Captain and I think he would get more done as a Captain.


    @Tim – I noticed the same thing – funneling the puck to MP for the hatty, and by doing taking 1 or 2 too many passes and missing what were otherwise much better opportunities to put the puck on the net. MP had already had a stellar game – there was really no need to further ice that cake.

  • lulu

    I might change my mind, but I’m giving up on the Caps; they are extremely talented, BUT also immature, undisciplined, unfocused and unambitious…this team cannot win a Stanley Cup

  • lulu

    as a friend said, “enough with skating with the kiddies and showing what nice guys thay are…..champions NEED a killer instinct…”

    The first sign was long ago when Brooks Liach said they thought of BB as “Santa Claus” ???? Players need to fear and respect a coach….

    Even Fedorov, after last spring’s slaughter by the Candiens, said BB is “too soft” with the guys

  • J.P.

    Ya know, after a while, the lack of effort has to be placed upon Bruce’s doorstep. There’s a meme that constantly floats around the Web, and you’ve probably heard some variation of it: “Constantly doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results is the height of stupidity/folly/craziness/insert your own descriptor here” and that’s what we’ve been watching the Caps do for far too long. Bruce is at the top of the hierarchy, responsibility flows down from him for what the players do on the ice. Too often Bruce refuses to react to changing circumstances and make the necessary adjustments on the fly.
    We’ve been looking at buying some Winter Classic tickets (even though they’re overpriced to the point that a 4 ticket package in the “cheap” seats w/hotel stay is priced at the $1400.00 mark). Not gonna happen now. Can’t lose that kind of coin for a team that wont give a full effort and for a coach who is unwilling or unable to effect the changes needed. It’s ugly and it’s embarrassing to watch such a bunch of talented players not make an effort. I realize they’ve still got a pretty good record and that it’s the playoff wins that matter, but jeez Louise, now’s the time to be setting the precedent for working hard, dotting the i’s, crossing the t’s, and ya know, finishing off an inferior opponent with ruthless freakin’ efficiency. Coasting on their laurels cost them a chance at the Cup last year, so you’d think that BB/GMGM would realize the consequences of marching down that primrose path again…. Bruce it’s on you to do what your paid to do. Coach. And coach like ya mean it this year, would ya?

  • Peter Hassett


    I think there’s a contradiction in there. Or at least the players see one.

    The Caps dominated the regular season last year, but blew it in the first round.

    This year, the regular season is being treated as an 82-game chore to be done as dispassionately as possible before the REAL HOCKEY of the post-season arrives. I hate that.

    Some people (me) think they coasted into the playoffs last year. They didn’t have enough momentum to knock out the Habs. This year might follow that pattern. If you don’t set the good habits of getting up for every play, you’re going to pay for it.

    I think that’s your point as well, but I wanted to type it out for myself because I felt like it, dammit.

  • Kate

    I agree with JP’s statement about how the Caps keep using their same predictable method and are somehow expecting different results. After they lost in the first round last year, even players on the Canadiens said it was easy to stop the usually high scoring Caps because their plays were so predictable.

    After last nights game, I’m convinced they don’t have a chance of making it past the first or second round, let alone winning a cup. They obviously have a very talented team and work hard for their success, but they need a slighty new direction and less predictable plays to keep the other teams guessing. Ovechkin is an amazing player and obviously one of the main reasons for their success, but he needs to be more of a multi-dimensional player rather than just his ability to score.

  • J.P.

    @ Peter
    yeah, that’s my assessment in a nutshell. Thanks for making my point much clearer than I was able to do. Good habits die hard, bad habits get you bounced from the first round of the playoffs…