The Washington Times - March 5, 2009, 10:57PM

The Caps were without two of their most important players, and faced a goalie who just had one of those nights where he was stopping just about everything. Still, the Caps should be able to Toronto in that situation. They didn’t, thanks to a couple of defensive breakdowns in the third period and a banner night from Martin Gerber, who was making his debut with the Maple Leafs.

Missed opportunities were to blame by the Caps for this 2-1 loss, their third straight here at the Phone Booth and fifth in seven contests on F Street. This was also another missed opportunity in the standings. The Caps could have tied New Jersey and got within six points of Boston with a win. Catching the Bruins in particular has seemed far-fetched for much of the season, but the suddenly mortal B’s have dropped nine of 12. The Caps have not taken advantage of it though.

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Here are a few notes and quotes from the aftermath:

* This is the first three-game home losing streak of the Bruce Boudreau Era and fourth three-game slide overall this season. The Caps have not lost four straight. The Caps have also only scored five goals in the past three games.

“We’re in that situation right now where guys are holding their sticks really tight and not doing things that are natural for them. Consequently, we’re not scoring.”

* Martin Gerber certainly had a debut to remember, stopping 37 shots. When he was laying on the ice and lifted his stick enough to knock down a sure goal by David Steckel, it was grand larceny.

“Gerber was pretty sharp,” Eric Fehr said. “That was his first game with Toronto so obviously he wanted to impress his teammates and he did a pretty good job at that. He was in pretty good lanes and we hit him a couple of times in the chest but he was pretty sharp.”

* Boudreau said he expects Alex Ovechkin to play Sunday against Pittsburgh, but didn’t sound as optimistic with Tom Poti. If Poti can’t play, he said the Caps will recall a defenseman from Hershey instead of going another game with Sergei Fedorov on the blue line.

* Fehr also logged a couple of shifts on the back end — once in the second period on the power play and again in the third period when the Caps were trying to erase the 2-0 deficit. He said it was the first time since pee wees that he’s played back there.

* Boudreau replaced Jose Theodore with Michal Neuvirth for a few seconds in the third period, but it was presumably because Neuvirth is a faster skater and he wanted his goalie to get to the bench quicker to set up a 6-on-5. Neuvirth was credited 23 seconds of ice time.