Capitals, unable to get a grip, are ‘overwhelmed’ by Maple Leafs

Capitals, unable to get a grip, are ‘overwhelmed’ by Maple Leafs

Tooba Shakir 54 years ago 0 2

TORONTO — For a brief moment, the puck hung in the air over the crease. Charlie Lindgren had just made a full-extension save on Bobby McMann, appearing to stifle a two-on-one rush from the Toronto Maple Leafs, but after Lindgren got his left pad on McMann’s shot, the puck ricocheted up, above Lindgren’s stretched-out form.

Almost in slow motion, the puck then hit defenseman Nick Jensen, who was battling William Nylander in front of the vacated net, and bounced over the goal line for Toronto’s fourth goal of the game.

It was that kind of night for the Washington Capitals at Scotiabank Arena on Thursday as their three-game winning streak — a run that began after a loss to Toronto at Capital One Arena last week — ended in a 5-1 loss to the Leafs. The Capitals’ offense rarely seemed to connect, while Toronto came at the Capitals in waves that never let up.

“From the start of the game, you could feel that our group was overwhelmed early on, just with the speed of the game, the way things were happening,” Washington Coach Spencer Carbery said. “You could see a bunch of puck touches where we bobble it. We were fighting it early, and it was just too quick for us tonight.”

Lindgren, under siege throughout, made 43 saves on 48 shots; Joseph Woll stopped 23 of 24 for Toronto. The disparity in the shot total paints a clear picture of just how much pressure the Maple Leafs kept Washington under from start to finish.

Outside of a few brief stretches, the Capitals never found a flow with the puck. Washington’s inability to maintain possession even while not under pressure by Toronto fed into the Maple Leafs’ desire to play an up-tempo, transition-focused game, and when Toronto did apply pressure to the puck, the Capitals’ repeated turnovers forced them into an uphill battle.

“We were just a little sleepy tonight, I think, on a lot of plays,” winger T.J. Oshie said. “We’re not a team that can play without guys getting the puck and moving their feet. We’re not a team that can have success if we’re not keeping things simple and moving the puck quickly. And we’re certainly not a team that can turn pucks over in the neutral zone. I think we did all of those things not very well tonight.”

Mark Giordano put the Maple Leafs ahead at 10:09 of the first period, shortly after Washington killed a penalty to center Nic Dowd for tripping. Giordano’s shot from the top of the left faceoff circle appeared to change directions on its way to Lindgren, suggesting it may have deflected off one of the Capitals — an early indication of the type of game Washington was facing.

The Capitals were never in position to feel as if they were owed better bounces than they received, but after riding a streak of good luck in recent weeks, their luck clearly ran out in Toronto.

Tyler Bertuzzi doubled the Maple Leafs’ lead just 18 seconds into the second period as he bounced the puck off the inside of Lindgren’s right pad from below the goal line. Dowd briefly gave Washington a bit of hope with a redirection on a point shot from Nick Jensen at 5:27, but Toronto restored its lead to two goals by the 11:38 mark as Connor Dewar pounced on a puck that bounced off the skates of Ryan Reaves at the front of the net.

Between Dowd’s tally and Dewar’s, center Dylan Strome had a chance in alone on Woll, but the puck rolled off his stick before he could get a shot away.

“There was plays to be made, and we just didn’t make them,” defenseman John Carlson said. “Turning the puck over when we shouldn’t instead of getting it deep and making it hard on them. That, combined with the plays we didn’t make, we were just a little bit off. They got a piece of it here or wasn’t as crisp here or there. All of a sudden, when you don’t connect, it looks like there was no offense out there.”

McMann’s goal 1:06 into the third period made it a three-goal game. The Capitals’ inability to corral the puck reared up again in the defensive zone midway through the final frame.

Lindgren stopped a puck behind the net and attempted to leave it for defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk, the kind of handoff between netminder and skater that happens dozens of times a game. But van Riemsdyk never fully took control of the puck, and as he started to skate up the ice, Bertuzzi took it away and slotted it seamlessly past Lindgren for his second of the night.

Washington spent most of the game just trying to hang on rather than establish momentum, which is a recipe for disaster against a high-pace team such as the Maple Leafs.

“What happens with our group — and it’s happened all year. It’s why our goal differential is what it is [minus-30] and everyone makes a big deal about it,” Carbery said. “When we get down in a game and we have to get into a little bit more of a track-meet situation, it’s a real issue for our team. We just can’t play that style.”

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