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Takeaways: Capitals Take Step Back, Falter In Clunker Against Leafs

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Capitals forward Tom Wilson

Back on Tuesday, the Washington Capitals had secured a 9-2 blowout victory over the Philadelphia Flyers after an impressive performance at both ends of the ice. Now, just 48 hours, the Capitals found themselves on the wrong side of a lopsided result against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Despite John Carlson pulling Washington within one in the second period, the Maple Leafs were all over the Capitals, who couldn’t keep the momentum from their last four wins going. In the end, a lackluster effort resulted in a 7-3 loss up north, putting an end to Washington’s winning streak. The team is also now five points behind Pittsburgh for third in the Metro.

“There is no question that we were way too loose,” head coach Peter Laviolette told the media after the loss.

Here are all the takeaways from the defeat:

Capitals Can’t Stop Leafs Forecheck

From the get-go, the Capitals couldn’t do much to contain the Leafs. Michael Bunting got Toronto going just under five minutes into the period, and William Nylander scored his 29th of the season later on to make it a 2-0 game going into the second.

Carlson would get Washington on the board with a beautiful goal to make it 2-1 halfway through the middle frame, but Toronto would strike back just 10 seconds later. Ilya Lyubushkin struck just 10 seconds after Carlson to restore the two-goal lead, and Nylander then scored his second of the game to make it 4-1 just 18 seconds after Carlson’s tally.

The Leafs didn’t stop there, as Ilya Mikheyev and Bunting would pick up goals just minutes later to make it 6-1 late in the second period. Tom Wilson got the Capitals to pull Washington within four heading into the final period. Mikheyev would record his second of the night just 1:27 minutes into the third to make it seven goals on the night for Toronto.

Ultimately, the Maple Leafs came ready to play, and their young guns were able to get to the high-danger areas and make things happen. Bunting, Nylander and Mikheyev had multi-goal outings, and Toronto ultimately outshot Washington 32-24. John Tavares also had four assists.

Samsonov, Vanecek, Defepnse Have Lackluster Night Against Leafs

Ilya Samsonov had been getting into a rhythm and had won three straight starts heading into Thursday’s game. However, his play began to unravel in Toronto.

Despite a couple of strong saves, Samsonov found himself struggling when it came to positioning and tracking the play. A few quick goals against ultimately led to him being pulled for Vitek Vanecek halfway through the second period. Samsonov ultimately finished with 15 saves on 19 shots (.789 save percentage).

Vitek Vanecek came in for Samsonov in net and didn’t have as strong of a relief performance, either. Vanecek stopped 10 of 13 shots (.769 save percentage).

Both are still in the running for the No. 1 spot heading into the playoffs. It seemed like an off night, and the defense also didn’t help as some of the goals were out of their control. Both had some strong saves, but the consistency, control and confidence need to be there going forward.

Taking that into account, though, the defense in front wasn’t anything to write home about, and not all the blame can fall on Samsonov or Vanecek.

“[We] gave the opportunity way too many times for the opposition to make something happen, so we needed to do a much better job in front of both of the goaltenders,” Laviolette said.

Wilson, Carlson Stay Hot, But Capitals Can’t Get Offense Going

Although Tom Wilson and John Carlson kept their respective hot streaks going, Washington couldn’t get a lot going on offense and struggled to keep up with the Leafs in a run-and-gun style game. The Capitals managed just four shots through the opening frame, and the team also went 0-for-4 on the power play.

Carlson took matters into his own hands in the second, pulling off some great moves and showcasing some of that skill the team saw on display against Philly on Tuesday to make it 2-1. The goal was his 15th of the season, and he also picked up an assist for 66 points through 70 games this season. Carlson also now has points in five straight games, with 11 points over that span.

Not only did Carlson stay hot, but Wilson also extended his point streak to four games and continued to build on his career year with his 24th goal of the season late in the second period. It came on a great shot off a terrific feed from Lars Eller, who now has points in three straight, with five points over that span. Wilson is now up to 24 goals and 53 points on the season. Minutes before that goal, he also dropped the gloves with Kyle Clifford to try and spark his team.

WHN FEATURES: Wilson Opens Up About Career Year, Growing Game With Capitals, Reputation & Social Media

Nic Dowd also kept his recent strong play going with his ninth goal of the season in the final minutes of regulation. He now has three points in his last two games and is one point away from 100 in his career. Johan Larsson also picked up his third point in two games with an assist on the goal, and Trevor van Riemsdyk also chipped in with his second helper in as many games.

Over the course of the game, the Capitals had flashes of good pressure on the forecheck and good scoring opportunities. They just couldn’t outplay Toronto or slow the Leafs down.

Sammi’s Top Shelf Takes

  • Despite everything, the Washington penalty kill came up big, shutting down all five of Toronto’s power-play opporutnities. Still, a number of goals on Thursday were scored at 4-on-4.
  • Nick Jensen led all Capitals skaters with six hits, while Alex Ovechkin led all Washington forwards with four.
  • Wilson, Marcus Johansson and Conor Sheary were tied for the team lead in shots (3). Ovechkin was held to just 1 SOG. Auston Matthews was also kept from adding to his goal total.
  • Nicklas Backstrom was the only Capitals skater to win over half of his face-offs. He went 8-for-11 (67 percent) in the face-off dot.
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