Laich: 'Our Energy Level Has to Come Up'
Well, that was certainly one of the weirdest finishes I've witnessed in a while. Alexander Semin whiffed on a wide-open net with less than three minutes to go in a tied game. The Caps and Leafs exchanged goals in the final 2:08. Martin Gerber got ejected and 41-year-old Curtis Joseph led the Leafs to a 3-2 shootout win that was a snoozefest for the first 57 minutes.
The Caps earned a point on the road, but there weren't many smiling faces in the visitors' dressing room here at Air Canada Centre.
"Right now our effort level has to come up," said Brooks Laich, whose goal with 56.1 seconds remaining forced overtime. "You ask the guys right now and no one is feeling exhausted, feeling like they emptied the tank, which is something we did last year. If you remember, every game was so desperate. We just had to win. We had to play so hard every night, and that's why we were so successful. Right now we're not doing it. But we have to find a way and start ramping it up."
The Caps have seven games remaining -- all against teams that are not currently in the playoffs -- to get themselves into gear before the postseason.
"As a coach, you want them to play as great as they can every night and you push them to play as hard as they can every night," Coach Bruce Boudreau said. "But it doesn't happen sometimes. Everybody knows when their sense of urgency is. We've been very successful this year against the top teams in the East. That's where our sense of urgency is. We have seven games [remaining] against non-playoff teams. Do I want them to win them all, and get up for them? Yeah. They know the playoffs are around the corner, and they're gearing up for that."
On to the notes:
Flu Bug Bites
Boudreau stopped short of blaming the virus that's been going around the dressing room for the loss. But it definitely had an effect, he said.
"That might have had something to do with the energy level," Boudreau said. "We had six or seven guys who, on better days, wouldn't have played. But still, it's a game we thought we should have won and could have won."
Boudreau Rips Into Bench
About four minutes into the third period, Boudreau called a timeout. Now, I sit about 200 feet off the ice and I'm not a lip-reader, but Boudreau did not look happy. I would venture to guess that he was furious with the level of effort, even though he wouldn't admit to it later.
"That happens often with a coach and his players," is all Boudreau would say when asked what all the screaming was about.
Uneven Night for Theo
Jose Theodore was unbelievable during a late second-period flurry on a Toronto power play. He turned away Lee Stempniak twice and John Mitchell from point-blank range. Boudreau, though, thought Theodore could have been better on the two goals he allowed.
"I thought we gave up a bad goal on the second goal and I thought even the first goal wasn't a great goal," Boudreau said.
Theodore acknowledged that he should have stopped Pavel Kubina's power-play tally with 2:08 remaining. Theodore also thought that he was bumped by Mikhail Grabovski on the Leafs' first goal and that an interference infraction should have been assessed.
Ovechkin Good, Semin Struggles
Alex Ovechkin had a very good night, I thought. He scored his 51st goal, assisted on the other, took seven shots and racked up four hits. He did, however, get stuffed by CuJo in the shootout. Ovechkin is now 11 for 37 in his career in the shootout. Wow.
Semin, on the other hand, still looked sick a day after missing practice with the flu. He had two giveaways, put two shots on net (but misfired on four others), whiffed on a wide-open net late and missed the net altogether in the shootout.
"He was one of the guys who missed practice yesterday," Boudreau said. "I don't think he's completely up to snuff. That was the fourth game in a row that was below par."
As for the open net Semin missed, Boudreau said: "It looked to me from the bench that he wasn't prepared to get the open puck."
As uninspired as the Capitals' effort appeared for the first two and a half periods, the reason they lost tonight was Joseph, who came on in relief of Martin Gerber after he was ejected for bumping linesman Pierre Champoux.
Joseph was great. He saved an Ovechkin one-timer in the final seconds of regulation, then turned back eight shots in overtime. He also stopped Nicklas Backstrom and Ovechkin in the shootout.
Interesting stat: Joseph has the fourth-most wins (453) and third-most losses (350). He was also the No. 1 star.
"He came in there and showed what 20 years of experience means," Theodore said. "In overtime, we went for two points. I was pretty impressed. You don't know how hard it is just to step in when you're not starting. Then to do it in a tied game, but he was on top of his game."
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