Entering the 2016-2017 NHL season, the Washington Capitals had one thing in mind, to finally make a deep playoff run. After cruising through another regular season with 55 wins and 118 points, the expectations for the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs are higher than they have ever been for the Capitals.
Early on in their series against the Toronto Maple Leafs, things are not exactly unfolding as expected. The Capitals now trail 2-1 in their first round series to the Maple Leafs, a series that most people had Washington winning quite quickly. After losing a second straight overtime game to the young, energetic Leafs, the Capitals are in a tough position.
They started out Game Three with a quick 2-0 lead as the top line was dominant early on. Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin opened the scoring, but Auston Matthews got his first goal of the playoffs before the end of the first period to cut the lead to 2-1. Evgeny Kuznetsov added a goal for the Caps to stretch the lead to 3-1, and Washington looked to almost put the game away.
They were unable to capitalize on scoring opportunities, including a two minute 5-on-3 power play and it proved costly. Toronto responded with goals from Nazem Kadri and a late goal just before the end of the second by William Nylander to tie the game 3-3. The Leafs scored on a power play early in overtime on a Tyler Bozak deflection and earned their first lead in the series and have put the pressure all on Washington.
Toronto looks the strongest they have at any previous point this year and the Capitals are struggling to find an answer to the Leafs speed thus far. Washington has now lost four of their last six overtime playoff games dating back to last year against the Pittsburgh Penguins. If the Capitals want to gain control of this series, they are going to have to find a way to slow down the Maple Leafs fast and skilled forwards. A healthy Karl Alzner will be a good addition for Washington, despite Nate Schmidt being one of the better skaters on the Capitals and making a great pass on the first goal of the game on Monday night, he is not Karl Alzner in his own end. Alzner lead the team in blocked shots this season and is almost certainly going to be a top target for many teams this offseason.
The Caps now face a tough task of winning three of the next four games if they want to advance. Surely, many are seeing shades of the 2010 President’s Trophy winning team that was unable to beat the resilient eighth seed Montreal Canadiens.
Game Four is scheduled for Wednesday night at 7:00 pm at the Air Canada Centre.
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