The Runner Sports

“Capital” Letdown In Game 3 Loss

Things were looking up for the Washington Capitals when they grabbed a 3-1 lead over the Toronto Maple Leafs in Game 3. However, they quickly shot themselves in the foot and fell in overtime by the final score of 4-3.

For the first time in the series, Washington scored the first goal. Nicklas Backstrom finished a pass from Nate Schmidt to put the visitors up early. Alex Ovechkin made it 2-0 with a one-timer past Fredrik Andersen for a 2-0 first period lead. Toronto made it 2-1 on Auston Matthew’s first of the series. Evgeny Kuznetsov snuck a shot past Andersen to put Washington up 3-1 in the second period. Nazem Kadri and William Nylander scored to even the score at 3. The game would go to overtime where Tyler Bozak deflected a power-play goal past Braden Holtby to put Toronto up 2-1 in the series.

The series is only 2-1 so it’s by no means over. Despite that, this was a game that Washington gave away at one moment: failing to score a 5-on-3 power play goal with a 3-1 lead. Defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk skyrocketed a shot over a yawning net that could have made it 4-1. Those are chances you simply have to capitalize on to put a team away. Toronto gained a huge momentum boost and they pounced on the Capitals.

Another moment that doomed Washington was Lars Eller’s late third period high-sticking penalty. Washington went into overtime having to kill off a penalty instead of even strength, which would have increased their chances of winning. They played with fire taking a penalty against a team who overcame a two-goal lead and it came back to bite them.

Special mention should go to Kuznetsov’s late third period miss. With a wide open net and the chance for the go-ahead goal, Kuznetsov rang a shot off of the crossbar. An open net with the potential game-winning goal on your stick and you hit the bar. I can’t think of a more demoralizing way to go back to the bench.

Braden Holtby can’t be faulted for any of the goals scored against him in Game 3. Matthew’s goal was a puck that bounced off Nate Schmidt and landed in the crease for a tap-in. Holtby couldn’t track the constantly bouncing puck until Matthews tapped it in. Kadri scored on a shot that was deflected and the third goal was a defensive breakdown in coverage. Both defensemen attacked the puck carrier behind the net, leaving the middle open for Nylander to put a shot that Holtby saved. He was just unable to recover. Bozak’s winner was just a good deflection, one of the hardest shots to stop.

This loss is the hardest to swallow thus far. But it was not all bad. The Capitals actually improved in a few areas that they struggled in the first two games. Most noticeably was faceoffs. Washington won 52% of their draws with Backstrom leading the team with a 61% win rate. They also did a much better job blocking shots. Washington blocked 24 shots to Toronto’s 11 with Matt Niskanen blocking a team-high 5 shots. Sadly, that’s all I can think of in the way of positives for the team’s play because, well, they blew two two-goal leads.

Two players deserve a bright spotlight in this game: Alex Ovechkin and Nate Schmidt. Ovechkin was one of Washington’s best player on the ice. He scored his second goal of the series and lit up the scoresheet. He finished with a goal, 5 shots, 4 hits, and 2 blocked shots. His energy needs to carry over into the next game to help lead his team to victory. Schmidt played admirably filling in for the injured Karl Alzner. His underrated speed helped to set up Backstrom for the opening goal and he played sound defense the entire game. He finished the game with an assist, a +2 rating, 2 hits, 2 blocks, and one takeaway.

What’s Next: The Capitals can’t possibly have any bullets left to shoot themselves in the foot with in Game 4, right? I guess fans will have to wait until Wednesday night when the Capitals will look to avoid going into a 3-1 hole.

Andrew Markowitz

Longtime Capitals fan hoping to see a Stanley Cup parade in D.C. this year...or at least once in my life

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