Heading into the game, the question on the minds of Leaf faithtful (at least many of them) might well have been: would the Leafs cave against the growing pressure, or would they say, basically, “enough is enough” and start to play like they have shown they can?
Trailing 1-0 against the Caps on the road (and old nemesis Alexander Ovechkin, who netted the game’s opening marker on a nice little pass from ex-Leaf Mikhail Grabovski) in the second period, things looked as though they could go either way for the blue and white. Would they wilt, or fight back?
Toronto did indeed stage a comeback, with van Riemsdyk scoring from his customary spot at the edge of the crease, re-directing a Kessel shot. Then early in the third, Kessel wristed one home that deflected into the top corner of the Caps’ net off a Washington defender’s stick.
Scoring goals usually goes to your legs (and provides a confidence jolt) and the Leafs seemed to skate even better at that point. I didn't sense they were just going to sit on their lead. They created some offense while not giving up an unduly high number of dangerous scoring chances. Mason Raymond had a great opportunity, wide open in the slot, but he couldn’t beat Neuvirth to make it 3-1, which might have been enough for the Leafs.
A fluke deflection gave the Caps life five minutes into the third, though the Leafs were still creating chances themselves. Unfortunately a costly tripping penalty in the neutral zone gave the Caps a power play opportunity. While the Leafs handled that well, within seconds of getting back to even strength Joel Ward was left alone in the slot and Washington had reclaimed the lead.
Overall, it felt like a stronger game for the leafs. They had some jump, and I thought they competed for the most part. Kadri and Lupul created some chances in the third. Bernier played well but in the end, the Leafs fell by a goal.
Simple question: was this a “good loss”? Can the Leafs build on this?