It was Hockey Night in Canada as the Washington Capitals took on the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Center on Saturday night. Looking to rebound from a mistake-ridden 3-2 loss to Montreal the night before, the Capitals came out energetic, hoping to secure two points from the Leafs. Unfortunately, after sixty-five minutes and four rounds of a shoot-out, Toronto proved to be too much for the Caps and they left Hockey Night in Canada with one point less than they had hoped.
After a scoreless first in which the two teams traded chances, Toronto opened up the scoring at 10:08 in the second when David Clarkson deflected a shot from Jake Gardiner in the slot. While initially under review because of high-stick suspicion, the play was eventually counted as a goal, putting the Leafs up 1-0. It was Clarkson’s 99th career goal.
The Capitals got the first two Power Play opportunities of the night earlier in the second period before the Clarkson goal, but failed to convert on both despite the large number of pucks they were getting to the net and quality zone time.
When the Leafs got their first chance on the man advantage as Eric Fehr went to the box for interference, the Caps 5th ranked penalty killers did their job, keeping the score even. In addition to solid penalty killing, Capitals goalie Braden Holtby put on a show of dazzling saves, including a sprawl across the crease to deny Leafs defenseman Dion Phaneuf the first goal of the game.
There was a scary moment at the end of the second period as Mikhail Grabovski returned to his former club after a tense exit the previous summer. In what appeared to be an undetected high-stick to the face of Grabovski from Leafs winger Joffery Lupul, the Caps’ center fell to the ice and got clipped by Clarkson’s skate blade, cutting open the left side of his face badly. He would leave the game for medical assistance but returned six minutes into the third, sewn up with 20 stitches. No penalty was called on the play.
After taking seventeen shots alone in the second period, the Caps would continue to pepper Leafs goaltender James Reimer with pucks in the third. Both goalies shined in last nights outing, as Holtby made brilliant saves on James van Riemsdyk and Morgan Rielly in the final period of regulation.
The Caps would finally break through at 15:50 into the third as Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin scored a dart off of a pass from Mike Green. Ovechkin, who leads the league in goals, became the first player in the NHL to hit the 20-goal marker this season. Ovechkin was held to just three shots prior to his goal as the Leafs did a good job of suppressing the explosive right-winger.
Despite the 19-4 shot differential in the third period, Washington failed to convert on any of their chances. Sixty minutes would not be enough for the Caps and the Leafs as the game headed into overtime.
While both teams got quality chances in the extra frame, the real stars were in the net, as Holtby and Reimer stole the show with their goaltending heroics and sent the game into a shoot-out.
Eric Fehr was the first shooter for Washington and scored the lone goal five-hole on Reimer after being a healthy scratch since November 2nd. Ovechkin, Backstrom, and Troy Brouwer all fell short in their shootout attempts as Toronto captured the win with goals by van Reimsdyk and Lupul. Van Reimsdyk beat Holtby on a backhander that trickled through his pads and Lupul put it away forehand as the Leafs prevailed in the skills competition.
While the Capitals put 50 shots on net during their outing in Toronto, it would not be enough to earn them the two points they wanted. Although the Caps have now lost three of their last four contests, they have collected points in eight of their twelve games in November. Washington currently sits four points behind the Pittsburgh Penguins, who are first place in the Metropolitan division with 30 points.