Against Toronto, Capitals continue to find ways to lose

It’s safe to say that the Washington Capitals aren’t off to the best of starts. Through four games, the Caps have been blown out twice, lost once in overtime and picked up their lone win via shootout. They’ve scored just six goals in those four games (lowest in the league), none on the powerplay (also lowest in the league) and have yet to lead a game for a single second (which is not ideal).

The team is so out of sync right now that left wing Alex Ovechkin failed to register a shot in back-to-back games for the first time in his Hall of Fame career (1,496 games). It’s not a controversial statement to suggest when the face of the franchise struggles, so too does the franchise itself.

In an effort to rectify issues that have plagued them this season, the Capitals had their best start to a game this season — applying tons of pressure and spending ample time in the offensive zone. And for a few moments center Nicklas Backstrom appeared to give Washington its first lead of the season, when he corralled the loose puck and fired it over Toronto goaltender Joseph Woll in the opening period. Alas, the officials determined that Ovechkin impacted Woll’s ability to make a save on the play, so the game remained scoreless.

Even though they played with much more confidence and aggression, the Caps still found themselves down 2-0 for a fifth-consecutive game. Washington outshot Toronto by 37-17, but the Maple Leafs made their limited number of shots count as Morgan Rielly, John Tavares, William Nylander and Auston Matthews each scored for the visitors. Capitals goalie Darcy Kuemper made just 13 saves.

On the other side of the rink, Ovechkin registered 14 shots, nearly matching Toronto’s shot total by himself. The 38-year-old was awarded a penalty shot when Mark Giordano hooked him on a breakaway during the second period, but was unable to convert the opportunity. While he will go down as one of the best goal scorers the league has ever seen, Ovechkin has scored on just two of 13 career penalty shots. The Great 8 did score his first goal this season — the 300th power-play goal and 823rd of his storied career — during the final moments of the second period. But the outcome had long since been decided by that point.

“It’s the same old story,” said coach Spencer Carbery. “We’re finding ways to lose hockey games. In the National Hockey League, you can do all the good things you want. Structurally, there are a lot of good things going on, no question. But at the end of the day, if you want to be a good team in this league, you’ve got to find ways to win as opposed to finding ways to lose.”

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