Maple Leafs hand Capitals sixth consecutive home loss 5-3
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By STEPHEN WHYNO
WASHINGTON (AP) Peter Laviolette didn't sugarcoat the feeling around the Washington Capitals after losing a third consecutive game in regulation and sixth in a row at home.
"I think guys will probably leave the rink angry," Laviolette said. "Everybody's probably angry."
Anger and frustration have built up for the Capitals and may have reached a crescendo with a 5-3 defeat to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday night. This one could be blamed on some brutal goaltending and defensive miscues that ruined a comeback bid and sent a crowd of over 18,000 home unhappy once again.
Washington is 3-8-1 on home ice in 2022 - with none of those victories in regulation. The Capitals' last home win came Jan. 22.
"It's our building and we're not getting it done," Laviolette said. "It's got to be better."
Despite a mounting sense of urgency three weeks from the trade deadline, it did not get better against Toronto. The Capitals again allowed the first goal - Michael Bunting's 19th of the season 2:35 in - and imploded by giving up two more in the final couple of minutes of the opening period.
Young defenseman Martin Fehervary wiped out in the corner on Bunting's goal, William Nylander beat Ilya Samsonov five-hole and Justin Holl scored on a net-front scramble with 1.6 seconds left in the first period. Laviolette yanked Samsonov at intermission after allowing the three goals on 10 shots and confirmed it was a coach's decision and not injury related.
"The ending of that first period was tough," Laviolette said. "We let up two goals towards the end of the first period and that's not good."
After Conor Sheary's goal in the first, Tom Wilson scored twice to pull the Capitals even. Then defenseman Rasmus Sandin put Toronto ahead with a 4-on-4 goal with 3:23 left, and Pierre Engvall sealed it with an empty-netter.
"Those ones sting when you give up a late goal like that and you're not able to climb back in it and tie it up," Sheary said. "We've got to find a way. We know we have the answers in the room and we've just got to find a way to string a couple wins together."
The Maple Leafs have won three in a row, though this was another one that won't go on the highlight reel. Coming off a 10-7 victory at Detroit, Toronto outscored some more shaky play by goaltender Petr Mrazek, who had plenty of adventures in net while allowing three goals on 33 shots.
That included the puck bouncing on top of Mrazek's net in the opening minutes and sitting on the goal line before Auston Matthews swept it away.
"You need sometimes little bounces like that to win the game, and that one was on our side today," Mrazek said. "Great defensive play by `Matty.'"
Whether at home or on the road, not much is going in the Capitals' favor right now. Barring a complete collapse down the stretch and another team making an improbable run, they'll join the Maple Leafs in the playoffs, yet there are still major concerns past the midway point of the season and Laviolette doesn't want to chalk it up to bad luck.
"There's things that we can do better," he said. "We're in a position right now where it's not bouncing our way, so we've got to clean it up and we've got to do a better job."
NOTES: Washington defenseman Justin Schultz was out for the third time in four games because of an upper-body injury. Forward Daniel Sprong was a surprise healthy scratch. ... Capitals alum Bill Riley and granddaughter Kryshanda Green took part in a ceremonial puck drop as part of the team's Black History Night tribute.
Toronto: Host Buffalo Sabres on Wednesday.
Washington: Host Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday in the second game of a three-game homestand.
Follow AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhyno
More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports
Updated March 1, 2022