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Takeaways: Wilson, Capitals Rally, But Same Story Leads To Loss To Leafs

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Capitals forward Tom Wilson

WASHINGTON, D.C. — As the final buzzer sounded at Capital One Arena, Alex Ovechkin skated over the Washington Capitals bench, and slammed his stick in frustration, breaking it into pieces. It was symbolic of how the team has been feeling of late, as they suffered yet another loss on home ice.

Since the start of 2022, the Capitals has fallen into the same narrative time and time again: they’re not playing bad, but inconsistencies lead to defeat. It happened again against the Toronto Maple Leafs: a poor start, a lack of execution and inconsistent coverage.Β While Washington was able to even the score and rally thanks to goals from Conor Sheary and Tom Wilson, Rasmus Sandin struck with under four minutes left in regulation time at 4-on-4.

The Capitals couldn’t complete the comeback, and ultimately fell 5-3. This is the team’s third straight loss and their sixth straight loss on home ice.

“There’s frustration,” head coach Peter Laviolette said bluntly. “Think we’re probably angry more than anything else. It’s our building and we’re not getting it done. It’s gotta be better.”

Here are all the takeaways from Washington’s defeat:

Samsonov, Capitals Again Got Off On Wrong Foot

After struggling to open Saturday’s game against Philadelphia, Washington emphasized the importance of a strong start. However, they couldn’t get that against the Leafs and ended up allowing a Michael Bunting goal less than three minutes in. The Maple Leafs were moving their feet and winning puck battles. Meanwhile, the Capitals were making one too many passes and also got a couple of unfortunate bounces.

Washington thought they got one back later on, but it was waved off in a controversial no-goal call where the puck didn’t completely cross the goal line. Soon after, though, Conor Sheary would respond — and it counted — with a tip-in to make it 1-1.

However, Toronto would swarm and get two more goals from William Nylander and Justin Holl just 1:09 minutes apart late in the frame to make it 3-1 heading into the second.

Samsonov surrendered three goals on 10 shots, ending his night in net as Vitek Vanecek would took over. It marked the second time in February that Washington pulled Samsonov.

Wilson Sparks The Capitals, But Rally Spoiled Late

Wilson rejuvenated the Capitals starting in the second period. He was moving his feet and getting to the high-danger areas, and ultimately, his effort paid off. He got in front and redirected an Alex Ovechkin shot past Petr Mrazek to pull Washington within one in the middle frame.

No. 43 wasn’t done there. In the third period, Wilson evened the score shorthanded. He went on a 2-on-1 with Eller and elected to shoot, firing an absolute rocket past Mrazek to make it 3-3. He is the third Washington player in the last decade to score a power-play goal and shorthanded goal int he same game, and the second this season (Ovechkin did so opening night vs. New York).

Wilson dominated against the Leafs, leading the team with six shots. He is now up to 17 goals and 36 points on the season. He is on pace for 55 points, which would be a career-high for the 2021 NHL All-Star.

In the end, it wasn’t enough, as Sandin’s late goal spoiled the comeback.

Penalty Kill Comes Up Big, Vanecek Solid In Relief

Going into Monday’s game, the Maple Leafs’ power play was ranked first in the league, operating at 30 percent. They ran into a wall, though, against the Capitals, who held them at bay. Not only did Washington get a shorthanded goal, but they didn’t allow Auston Matthews and the PP to get one shot on goal at 5-on-4. Toronto went 0-for-4 on the man advantage.

Meanwhile, Vanecek played in his first NHL game since Feb. 1 and his second game in two nights (he made a conditioning start in Hershey on Sunday), and he rose to the occasion. The Czech netminder was strong between the pipes in relief of Samsonov. He stopped 16 of 17 shots (.941 save percentage).

Sammi’s Top Shelf Takes

  • T.J. Oshie and Garnet Hathaway provided the physicality, leading the Capitals with four hits apiece.
  • John Carlson led all Washington skaters with 25:44 minutes of ice time and picked up three assists. He now ranks seventh among NHL defensemen in scoring, tied with Morgan Rielly.
  • Laviolette didn’t fault Vanecek on the last goal against. Said the coverage needed to be better.
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