Oct. 29 vs. Toronto Maple Leafs at Scotiabank Arena
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Radio: Capitals Radio 24/7, 94.7 The Drive
Washington Capitals 8-2-3
Toronto Maple Leafs 6-5-2
The Caps conclude their longest road trip of the season and the October portion of their 2019-20 schedule on Tuesday night in Toronto against the Maple Leafs. It's second meeting of three this season between the two teams; the Caps came from behind to take a 4-3 decision from the Leafs in Washington on Oct. 16.
Speaking of coming from behind, it's been a recurring thing in Caps games this month. They're coming into Tuesday's tilt on the heels of a 6-5 shootout win over the Canucks in Vancouver on Friday night. Washington was down 5-1 in the waning seconds of the second period of that game, but it climbed back into it quickly, scoring four times on five shots in less than eight minutes time.
Evgeny Kuznetsov scored the Caps' first two goals, and his second one came with just three-tenths of a second left in the middle frame, starting off the aforementioned offensive spree. Michal Kempny netted the last two Washington goals, and those pairs of tallies were sandwiched around a shorthanded goal from Lars Eller.
When rookie Caps goalie Ilya Samsonov outdueled Jacob Markstrom in the shootout, the Caps had two points. It's just the fifth time in franchise history the Caps have rallied from four goals down to win, and it enabled the Caps to match the best October in franchise history in both wins (eight) and points (19). The 2009-10 Caps established both of those marks.
The Caps are routinely confident in their ability to bounce back from multi-goal deficits, and they've done it a number of times in recent years. But when Kuznetsov beat the second-period buzzer, he did so with Washington's first shot on net in more than 10 minutes. From there, the Caps needed less than 10 minutes and only four shots to get the game tied up.
"I think that goal at the end of the second was huge," says Eller. "Just a little bit of life, and we said we needed to get another one early [in the third], and then we did that. And then after that, that was just a big push."
That big push helped the Caps forget about a bad beat in Edmonton the night before, when they led by two goals going into the third period, but were forced to settle for a single point in an overtime loss to the Oilers. Four of the Caps' five losses (8-2-3) this season came in games where they lost a third-period lead, but three of their wins have come in comebacks from multi-goal deficits.
"We've been on the wrong sides of those games a couple of times now where we weren't happy with the outcome," admits Eller, "and now it was nice to be on the other side. It was a big win for the character of the team, and going forward."
The Caps can set a new franchise standard by picking up a point in any fashion in Tuesday's October finale against the Leafs. It's been a prosperous trip for the Caps to date; they're 3-0-1 on the journey, with their lone misstep coming in Edmonton last Thursday. Washington's 6-1-1 road start to this season is the best in its franchise history.
While Washington will be playing its ninth October road game on Tuesday night in Toronto, the Leafs will be playing their ninth home game of the month. Toronto is 4-2-2 in its first eight home games of the season. The Leafs have played four sets of back-to-back games in the first month, including two sets last week.
In that Oct. 16 meeting in the District, the Leafs were finishing up their second set of back-to-back games and the Caps were coming off a bad beat at the hands of the Colorado Avalanche two hours earlier. Toronto jumped out to an early 2-0 lead over Washington, but the Caps came back to score four unanswered in a 4-3 win over the Leafs, one of those three comeback wins in the early going of the 2019-20 season.
The Leafs have earned at least a point in each of the first games of their four sets of back-to-backs, but they lost all four on the back end, picking up a point in the first of the four. Last week, Toronto lost at home in overtime to Columbus on Monday, then fell to the Bruins in Boston the following night. The Leafs returned home to host San Jose on Friday, beating the Sharks, 4-1. But a Saturday night trip to Montreal resulted in a 5-2 loss for Toronto on Saturday.
In the first meeting between these two teams earlier in the month, the Leafs lost the services of center John Tavares, who suffered a fractured finger in the Oct. 16 game in Washington. The Toronto captain has been sidelined since, but should be nearly ready to return to action.