Pressure on Caps to come back vs. Leafs
TORONTO -- There were expressions of concern in the Washington locker room Monday night after the Capitals' second consecutive overtime loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The loss was difficult, no doubt. This was a game that the Capitals led by two goals on two different occasions.
There is more to it, however. The Capitals have become known for their playoff futility despite strong regular seasons.
Washington is living up to this reputation so far, trailing the young Maple Leafs 2-1 with Game 4 of the Eastern Conference first-round playoff series to be played Wednesday night at the Air Canada Centre.
The Maple Leafs' confidence will be soaring.
"It's a good feeling," said Toronto center Tyler Bozak, who scored the overtime winner Monday on a tip-in during a power play. "I love the way we responded when we got down. Everyone played well, and you know, we can enjoy (it), but we still have a lot of work to do. We're confident in here, so we've just got to stick to it and sit still."
The Capitals cannot avoid the inevitable question about their playoff failures.
"Until we change the narrative, that's going to be the question," Capitals defenseman Matt Niskanen said. "It's up to us to change it. You can't talk about it. You just have to go and do it."
The game Monday could have been different for the Capitals.
They led 3-1 in the second period when they had a five-on-three advantage.
The Capitals could not score.
"We should have scored there, absolutely," said Washington center Nicklas Backstrom, who had a goal and an assist.
Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock said, "Obviously, we were down 3-1 and get the five-on-three, and it's a big moment in the game. The game is over if they score. That was a huge kill for us."
The Maple Leafs climbed back into the game.
They tied the game at 19:20 of the second period when Capitals defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk and Brooks Orpik were both behind the net checking Toronto's Zach Hyman.
Uncovered in front was William Nylander, who had time to knock in his own rebound, after goaltender Braden Holtby made a fine save on his first shot. That made the score 3-3.
"I think we had three guys beyond the goal line, so that's not a very good way to defend, especially the last minute of the period," Orpik said.
The Capitals went more than 13 minutes without a shot on goal to start the third period.
"We were just on our heels, not being assertive, not being confident," Niskanen said. "They took it to us. They outplayed us in the third period."
"They're getting some breaks," Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. "They're working hard, I don't want to take anything away from them."
Babcock was not entirely impressed with his team's defensive play.
"I don't know if it was nerves or trying to do too much or whatever, we weren't as good defensively as we should have been (Monday) night," he said. "We gave too many free opportunities. We've got to do a better job there. Obviously, we won the game on special teams. The power play got us a big goal, and the penalty kill, in particular on the five-on-three, was outstanding. That, in the end, probably won us the game."
Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner will miss Game 4. When he sat out Game 3 due to an upper-body injury, it ended his streak of 599 consecutive regular-season (540) and playoff games (59) played since 2010.
Nate Schmidt took his place Monday and had an assist.
Updated April 18, 2017