Monday, December 6, 2010 10:36 p.m.
CAPITALS PAGE CAPITALS VIDEOS
By Joe Beninati
A not-so-funny thing happened on the way to an easy win over the visiting Maple Leafs Monday night. A three-goal, third-period lead for the Caps went up in smoke in about 14 minutes time. And to make matters worse, Toronto was the only team to score in the shootout, which means Washington's losing skid is now three games.
Understandably, there was a very somber mood in the Washington dressing room after this latest collapse. The almost identical thing happened a month ago in this building, when the Maple Leafs rallied in the third period to actually take the lead in regulation, before Alex Semin would ultimately bail the Caps out in period three and the eventual shootout.
For 40 minutes the home team was the dominant team They heeded the instructions of their head coach, who pleaded with them to be aggressive at the front of the net. AHL call-up Mathieu Pereault paid immediate dividends with a tip-in goal before the game was three minutes old. Perreault skated very effectively, distributed the puck well to line-mates Semin and Brooks Laich, and when called upon was the bundle of energy the coaches know he can be.
Clarke MacArthur scored the first of his two goals tonight on a broken play in period one. It appeared as if the Caps would clear the puck easily on a penalty kill, but Karl Alzner's blast caromed to Nikolai Kulemin who moved the puck to MacArthur for a well-placed snapshot.
Mike Knuble was in the high slot for a Washington power-play goal just over three minutes later. His first attempt was blocked and then he ripped one by a startled Jonas Gustavsson.
Perreault showed good patience on his second goal of the night in the middle period. Laich found the youngster in front and he out-waited Gustavsson before zipping a snapshot to the far corner.
Alex Ovechkin joined the party in the second period, uncorking an evil 'old-school' wrist shot over a screened Gustavsson to make it 4-1.
The first three minutes of the third period went by without a hitch, but then everything came unraveled. Mikhail Grabovski slipped a one-timer under Michal Neuvirth with 15 minutes to go and the Caps goalie appeared to be rattled. Tim Brent made a beautiful deflection on a shot that was headed wide of the goal to trim the deficit to one with 2:23 to play.
Toronto Head Coach Ron Wilson knew his team had plenty of momentum and did not hesitate to pull his goaltender with well more than a minute to go, and the move worked out to perfection when MacArthur was alone at the post for a tip-in with 1:24 to play. A scoreless overtime, brought the home team nervously to a shootout, looking for the same magic that saved them a month ago.
Not this time, however.
Grabovski worked a spinning backhand deke to get Toronto the eventual game-winner and Gustavsson, who appeared shaky at times, was brilliant in stopping Ovechkin, Perreault and Semin in succession. His lunging stick save on Perreault was ridiculous!
This loss is a kick in the gut Caps fans, no other way to say it. What should have been banked as a solid win, turned out to be another puzzling setback.