The Toronto Maple Leafs lost another tough one at the Scotiabank Arena Thursday falling 3-2 to the visiting Washington Capitals.
The Caps scored 5-5, on the power play and short handed, missing an empty netter to fall short of hockey’s version of hitting for the cycle.
For the first time this season Toronto has lost 3-in–a-row and wasn’t the loss, but the way they lost, that has Leafs Nation concerned. Like a bad hangover from St. Louis two nights earlier, they were out-muscled and out worked again. Tom Wilson, love him or hate him, was a disruptive force and the home side had no response. Wilson, who can play reckless with an edge of stupidity at times, used a combination grit, force, and skill to tilt the game the Caps way. He ran John Tavares a number of times early in the opening period, even chopping at the prized asset of the Leafs but knowing he wouldn’t be challenged continued his liberties with the skilled forwards.
After Alex Ovechkin opened the scoring on a the power play with his league leading 43rd goal; moments later Wilson banged Jake Gardiner off the puck behind the Toronto net and Lars Eller fed a wide open Brett Connolly who made a nifty move to beat Frederik Andersen.
Andreas Johnsson gave the Leafs hope in the third with his 16th of the season but a turnover on the power play sent Tom Wilson on a 2-1 who made no mistake to put Washington back up by two all but sealing the victory. John Tavares would net his 34th with 33-seconds remaining but a little to late.
Braden Holtby made 40-saves and was outstanding preserving the win for Washington who now trail the New York Islanders by a single point for first place in the Metropolitan Division.
Frederik Andersen was terrific in the net but the dreaded second period let down his team mates mysteriously suffer at home surfaced again and left them chasing the game in the third.
They didn’t play terrible but the lack of toughness upfront and on the blue line is becoming more evident as the season approaches the finish line and the intensity level is cranked up a few notches.
Its no coincidence teams that play physical with the skilled Maple leafs are having success slowing them enough to keep the game level. They are now 2-3-1 in their last six and with Montreal nipping at their heels, Saturdays contest suddenly has significant meaning especially with Boston on a winning streak and pulling away.
If Toronto expects to be factor with the elite moving into the playoffs, they definitely need to be more physical upfront and the blue line to have any chance.