The Toronto Maple Leafs let a 2-0 lead slip away in what was a missed opportunity in a tough back-to-back situation on Wednesday night in Washington.

Your game in ten:

1.  It was a solid road period from the Leafs in a back-to-back situation for the first 19 minutes of the opening frame. Granted, they gave up some chances and withstood some early hits from an angry Capitals team, one that was run out of the building early on by Colorado the last game and was out to fix a poor start to the season on home ice (I was instantly concerned about the rebounds coming off of Michael Hutchinson as well). But the Leafs scored a goal shorthanded on a nice play by Kasperi Kapanen and Trevor Moore, opened up a 2-0 lead shortly after through Ilya Mikheyev, and then really took over in the second half of the first period.

They really had the Capitals scrambled — Washington looked disorganized on the breakout for large portions of the first period, with huge gaps opening up between their forwards and D, leading to a bunch of turnovers — and the Leafs were able to get on top of them for a string of shifts in the offensive zone.

Giving up a late goal and not getting into the dressing room for the first intermission with the 2-0 lead was a real killer. I knew the Leafs were in tough to find a result after that given the situation.

2.  The game was sort of like the Minnesota one in reverse, with the Leafs now on the road as the tired team carrying a lead into the second period before getting smoked by an avalanche of goals inside a handful of minutes in the middle frame.

It all started with the 2-2 Kuznetsov goal. John Tavares was slow to react and got beat late in his shift by a fresh Kuznetsov, but there needs to be some situational awareness from Tyson Barrie there. The Leafs had dead legs after an icing. He made the decision to take a stab at the puck and played it strangely — if you’re going to commit on the puck carrier high up the wall there, better make sure you get a stick in the way so you don’t allow a clean play through. Instead, he took an odd angle that basically took himself out of the play. Getting into good defensive posture — facing the oncoming rush with your eyes up the ice and your stick in position — instead of overplaying it would’ve been the right call, especially following the icing.

3.  The response to the goal against was terrible — conceding another one ten seconds later — and the Leafs need to do a better job of responding after something goes wrong. Morgan Rielly put in an unacceptable effort in the one-on-one battle down low versus TJ Oshie and Alex Kerfoot totally lost his man in coverage. Need to dig in and compose yourself better than that.

4.  The 5-on-3 goal for the 4-2 Capitals lead was a tough break more than anything after the Cody Ceci puck-over-glass penalty (can we all agree this rule needs discretion for clearly unintentional situations?). The Leafs penalty kill had a good night overall disrupting the Capitals’ entries and came out even with the shorthanded goal scored.

In addition to winning the draw, the Leafs had one chance to clear on that 5-on-3 and Muzzin hit Goat with the puck. Failed clearances on a 5-on-3 usually end only one way with John Carlson, Alex Ovechkin and co. on the ice.

6.  At some point, especially for a team in the Leafs’ situation (tired on the road in a b2b), you do need a save. You’re not expecting .920 excellence each backup start, but timely saves when the team needs it most are in the job description. Michael Hutchinson didn’t let in any clear “should have” goals, but he just didn’t come up with anything at the crucial moments, the rebounds were pretty loose, and you didn’t feel a ton of confidence emanating off of him between the pipes.

Timely saves were what Curtis McElhinney did so effectively while he was here, even if it rarely looked pretty and his numbers weren’t always fantastic. It’s an unforgiving position, but such is life behind a 60-game starter. I’m guessing the Leafs give Hutchinson the back-to-back against Boston next week as the final opportunity to show he can do the job before Kyle Dubas goes shopping.

7.  Ilya Mikheyev impresses me more and more with each passing night. The separation speed he showed on his goal was great, but just as impressive, there has been no drop-off from game-to-game yet — back-to-back situation (which almost never happen in the KHL)? No problem. Take some shifts on the top line? No problem, I’ll just keep on playing my same game. Kill this penalty? No problem.

I get it’s early and the grind of an 82-game schedule is going to be a real test for him down the stretch and into the playoffs, but he looks like a true everyday’er, as Babcock would say.

8.  Unsurprising development, but Kasperi Kapanen looked much better back on the right wing from the start of the game — sending/receiving passes easier, driving down the wing more naturally. The goal went straight to his legs. After a tough start to the year for Kapanen, that’s a positive development on a forgettable night.

9.  The Leafs put together a respectable push at the end, including a nice goal from John Tavares with a couple of minutes left, but their best chance to get  back into the game with significant time still on the clock came on their lone power play of the game in the third. This was the location of the only shot attempt by the Leafs in the final 1:38 of the man advantage:

Morgan Rielly's muffin

Amid some decent zone time, the puck was cleared immediately after Rielly’s floater got knocked down, and that was the end of it. The puck should never be put on goal from there with a chest-high floater straight at a Washington player.

10.  Babcock’s point about a bunch of back-to-backs in the first month is well taken (by me at least) — it makes sense that they’re harder to handle early in the year when the structure isn’t dialed in enough for you to lean on as much.

The schedule does not get any easier from here over the next two weeks, though. The Leafs have yet to beat a good team — closest is Columbus, who shed top talent in the offseason — with losses to Tampa, St. Louis, and now Washington. They’ve got two games against Boston, one more against CBJ, Montreal again, San Jose, and another against Washington before October is through. There are two more back-to-backs in there as well.  They’ve largely had no answers for the big lines they’ve faced so far. There is no help coming from the schedule makers, so it’s time to dig in.

The team is getting most of what they could reasonably ask for out of the bottom six at the moment. Even the new third line (Mikheyev / Moore – Kerfoot – Kapanen), while it got lost in the shuffle a little bit with the special teams time and Babcock moving pieces around, gave them pretty good minutes tonight. Nick Shore took a penalty off of a d-zone draw that ended up hurting the team, but by and large, the fourth line is handling a good amount of the defensive zone starts capably and helping the top six out. Among the best-players-who-need-to-be-better group, I include Rielly, Tavares, Marner, and Barrie most of all here.


Game Flow: 5v5 Shot Attempts

Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Washington Capitals


Game Highlights: Capitals 4 vs. Leafs 3