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Five Takeaways - Leafs at Capitals - 01/03/17

Here are five takeaways from the Maple Leafs' 6-5 overtime loss to the Washington Capitals Tuesday at Verizon Center:

by Adam Proteau / MapleLeafs.com

1. Leafs stung early by Caps after taking penalty in game's first minute. Looking to extend their five-game win streak Tuesday, the Leafs found themselves in trouble in short order after blueliner Nikita Zaitsev was called for hooking against star winger Alex Ovechkin just 33 seconds into the first period. And less than a minute after that, Washington took the game's first lead when winger Justin Williams netted his 10th of the season at the 1:14 mark.

Toronto surrendered the first goal in their previous game against Detroit at the Centennial Classic outdoor game Sunday, but as they would demonstrate some five minutes after Williams' goal, the Leafs aren't a team that's easily deterred.

 

Video: TOR@WSH: Kadri slips in PPG past Holtby's skate

2. Kadri, Brown help Toronto push back, take lead with power play and even-strength goals. Veteran centre Nazem Kadri has quietly been enjoying a stellar season at both ends of the ice, and he continued to make an impact Tuesday by getting to the net on Toronto's first power play of the night and pushing the puck past Capitals goalie Braden Holtby at 6:39 of the first to record his 14th goal of the year and even the score at a goal apiece.

Then, 5:05 after Kadri scored, winger Connor Brown rifled a high shot over Holtby to register his eighth of the season and his fourth (and his eighth point) in his past six games to put the Buds ahead 2-1. The 22-year-old Brown is proving to be a quick study at whatever level of the game he plays, and the Toronto native is fast becoming an integral part of his team's attack.

3. Oshie evens the score late in the first, but Gauthier puts Buds back on top before first intermission. Over the course of nine NHL seasons, winger T.J. Oshie has earned his reputation as one of hockey's savviest snipers - and he underscored that reputation with a dazzling individual effort that led to Washington's second goal of the night (and Oshie's 12th of the year) at the 16:00 mark of the first.

However, the Leafs regained the lead with 1:54 remaining in the opening frame when defenceman Connor Carrick's shot on net bounced unexpectedly toward the right side of Holtby - and right onto the stick of centre Frederik Gauthier, who tapped it in for his second career NHL goal and second this season. Gauthier - who scored his first goal Dec. 22 against Colorado and added his second career assist the next night against Arizona - is one of Toronto's many feel-good stories so far this year, and on this play, he was the beneficiary of the ancient hockey lesson: go to the net with your stick on the ice, and good things can happen.

4. Holtby replaced by Grubauer to start second, but Leafs add to lead after phenomenal setup by Matthews. Capitals head coach Barry Trotz replaced Holtby with Philipp Grubauer to start the second period, but after a scoreless first half of the frame, Toronto increased their lead at the 13:33 point with another power play goal - this one from winger Leo Komarov, who scored his seventh of the year (and fourth in his past five games) thanks to an absolutely terrific, spinning, behind-the net pass by centre Auston Matthews.

Matthews received the second assist on Brown's first-period marker, and his two-point night was the rookie's ninth multi-point game of the season. It's getting difficult to find the superlatives to describe Matthews' vision, creativity and overall ability, but the bottom line is he's a difference-maker for his team, and will be for years to come.

 

Video: TOR@WSH: Marner breaks in, slides puck five-hole

5. Caps get two early in third before Marner's breakaway goal puts Toronto ahead - but Carlson ties it to send game to extra time before Ovechkin nets game-winner. The Leafs have had issues this season maintaining a lead late in games, and that was the case in the third period Tuesday: Washington erased their two-goal deficit with markers from Evgeny Kuznetsov and Dmitry Orlov in the first 3:39 of the period, and though Toronto re-took the lead at the 11:08 mark thanks to a gorgeous breakaway goal from winger Mitch Marner (his 10th of the year and second point of the game), the Caps scored their fifth of the evening at 13:55 from blueliner John Carlson. 

That was the final goal of regulation time, and Ovechkin posted the game-winner just 22 seconds into the extra frame to snap the Buds' win streak. On the one hand, the Leafs captured a single point as they push for a playoff spot, but they still need to be better at locking down the opposition when they have a lead. Certainly, paying more attention to the other team's transition game has to be part of the solution, and the sooner Toronto can manage to stay patient with more consistency and take advantage of opportunities that may come with less frequency, the better they'll be in their own zone.

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