WASHINGTON – James van Riemsdyk took advantage of the latest Washington Capitals calamity, swooping in when a defenceman and goaltender couldn’t decide who was going to play the puck.
Van Riemsdyk scored his fifth and sixth goals of the season Tuesday night, while Korbinian Holzer scored on just the fourth shot of his NHL career to lead the Toronto Maple Leafs to a 3-2 victory over a mistake-prone Capitals team that already sounds like a broken record.
“You run out of clichés to say to the guys, obviously,” Washington coach Adam Oates said.
The Capitals have lost eight of 10 to start the season and sit at the bottom of the NHL standings, so the last thing they need is the kind of embarrassing miscommunication that put them in a 1-0 hole in the first period. Goalie Michal Neuvirth and defenceman Tom Poti both went behind the net for the puck—and neither ended up with it.
“I saw them kind of looking at each other, like, ‘Who was going to take the puck?'” van Riemsdyk said. “And it was just sitting there, so I went to go grab it and was able to just kind of wrap it in.”
The Capitals’ take?
Neuvirth: “Easy goal for them.”
Poti: “We have to be sharper there. It’s a tough way to go down 1-0.”
Oates: “A huge deflater for us, a miscommunication, not something we needed at that time.”
Ben Scrivens made 24 saves for the Maple Leafs, who broke a two-game losing streak and maintained their road-ice advantage in the early part of the season. Toronto is 4-1 on the road—and only 1-4 at home.
Marcus Johansson and Mike Ribeiro scored power-play goals for the Capitals. Two-time league MVP Alex Ovechkin was held to one assist and has yet to score a 5-on-5 goal this season.
Michal Neuvirth made 18 saves for Washington, but he allowed Holzer to go five-hole with a slap shot from near the blue line midway through the second period, giving the Maple Leafs a 3-1 lead and the German defenceman his first NHL goal in his fifth game in the league.
Holzer didn’t find out he was going to play under shortly before the game, so he didn’t have time to text his family in Munich to tell them to watch. At least he can show them the puck, which he has as a souvenir.
“I didn’t even try to score. I just tried to get it to the net and good things happened,” Holzer said, “so I’m very happy to get that goal.”
Perhaps the only person more surprised was Neuvirth, who said the shot was deflected by someone’s stick.
“It was a big goal for them,” the goalie said. “I couldn’t believe that one went in.”
The Capitals pulled within one on Ribeiro’s goal in the third period.
Scrivens, getting the call over James Reimer as the Maple Leafs played the second night of a back-to-back, stopped another drive from Ribeiro a few minutes later and raised his arm to stop a shot from Poti late in the period, playing his part to make the Capitals the biggest disappointment in the NHL.
“It’s tough to keep our confidence up,” Oates said. “It’s part of the job. We’ve got to figure out ways to get guys to understand that you’re doing a lot of good things—and hopefully it’ll turn our way.”
Notes: Maple Leafs sniper Phil Kessel is struggling as much as Ovechkin. Kessel had two assists Tuesday night—putting his total at six for the season—but he remains without a goal and is stuck on 99 since joining the Maple Leafs in 2009. He was also in the penalty box during Johansson’s goal. … Johansson’s goal was his first of the season and came with an assist from Tomas Kundratek, who got his first NHL point. … The Maple Leafs also won 3-2 when the teams met in Toronto last week.
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