After blowing a two goal lead in the third period, the Washington Capitals held on and defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-4 in a shootout Wednesday night at the Verizon Center.
The Caps entered the third period ahead 3-1 looking as if they were completely in control of the game. However, three minutes of meltdown on the Caps defensive end allowed the Leafs to score three goals in three minutes and they took the lead for the first time since the first period 4-3.
“The game of hockey is a game of emotion,” Capitals Coach Bruce Boudreau said. “They come up and we get down. We knew they were going to come out that fatigue wasn’t going to be a factor.”
After giving up the lead the Caps caught a break when with 13 minutes to go Toronto’s Brett Lebda was called for crosschecking setting the Caps up for a man advantage.
Washington’s power play unit found the net for the second time on the night thanks to a nifty stick move from Alexander Semin. Semin picked the puck up from the side of the net, pulled it back around and put it in the goal to tie things up 4-4.
“When he scored his goal on the power play, there aren’t too many guys in the National Hockey League that have hands like that – that can put it in there that quickly,” Boudreau said of Semin’s goal.
The game remained tied after five minutes of overtime to take the Caps to a shootout.
Nicklas Backstrom shot first for the Caps and missed, but was followed by goals from both Alex Ovechkin and Semin. Michal Neuvirth came up with two big saves and the Caps came away with the victory.
“He’s incredible,” Mike Green said of Neuvirth. “He’s been outstanding for us.”
Boudreau let Semin, Oveckin, and Backstrom play together on the front line for the second game in a row but they were not as successful tonight as they were Saturday in Calgary. However, Washington’s power play looked strong and they scored on two of four man-up advantages.
The Caps pounded the net throughout the night, and at times it seemed like they should be up by four or five goals. A few key mistakes on defense and a continued struggle to clear the puck ultimately lead to the Toronto comeback.
“We stayed positive,” Green said. “We didn’t hang our heads after that. We believe in each other out there.”
Tonight’s win was the Caps first to come from a shootout this season. Washington will face the Bruins on Friday and will need to score early to avoid having to once again come from behind.
“You don’t want to come from behind all the time,” said winger Jason Chimera. “Eventually you’re not going to come back from those games. You can only battle yourself out [of a hole] so much.”