TORONTO – Sometimes statistics don’t tell the whole story and Saturday night’s tilt between the Washington Capitals and Toronto Maple Leafs is a perfect example.
Washington’s top line of Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Semin combined for six points and a plus-6 rating, but it wasn’t enough as the Maple Leafs doubled up the Capitals 6-3.
A couple of key plays that didn’t show up on the game sheet turned the tide as Toronto scored three times in the third to get the win.
After the Capitals jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first on goals by Ovechkin and Backstrom, Semin broke in all alone on Vesa Toskala at the eight-minute mark.
Semin could have given Washington a three-goal cushion, but the Leafs netminder made a flashy glove save to keep his side in the game.
“It’s a lot tougher to come back from 3-0 than 2-0,” said Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau. “It just feels like that’s a much bigger hole to get out of.”
Oveckin, who scored his 21st of the season, agreed.
“We didn’t score on some great scoring chances,” said the flashy Russian. “If we score that third goal, maybe it’s a different game.”
As the night wore on, Boudreau said Washington’s busy schedule – it was the Caps’ fifth contest in eight days – may have been partly to blame for his team’s lack of jump.
But he wasn’t about to let his players off the hook.
“We saw Alex get a soft power-play goal, then (Backstrom) gets a goal, then we had a breakaway, then (Mike) Knuble has a chance…I’m sure we thought, ‘Oh, this is going to be great, we’re going to get chances all night,”‘ said Boudreau.
“But chances dry up, you stop getting them, and suddenly it’s going the other way.”
Toronto scratched its way back, tying the game 2-2 early in the second period before Backstrom notched his second of the game at 8:33.
The Leafs kept battling, though, with Niklas Hagman’s goal at 16:39 of the second setting the stage for the final 20 minutes.
“That’s what usually happens when you get up 2-0 too easily, you let up…you don’t cash in your chances,” added Boudreau. “You can’t just turn it off and on, and we couldn’t.”
After Matt Stajan gave the Leafs a 4-3 lead early in the third, the Caps went on the power play with a chance to tie the score.
But an ill-advised Backstrom pass along the blue-line was broken up by Stajan. The Leafs centre quickly went the other with Lee Stempniak, who fought off Ovechkin to beat Caps goalie Michal Neuvirth for to make it 5-3.
Backstrom’s miscue and Ovechkin’s lack of defensive hustle won’t appear in the game summary, but cost the Caps dearly.
“(Backstrom) had the puck and I’m sure he thought that pass was possible,” Boudreau said, “But he didn’t do what he wanted to do, and it went back the other way.”