- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 16, 2017

The sound of 18,000 shaking cowbells is like that of Santa’s sleigh caught in a hurricane of angry cicadas.

If you were at Verizon Center Saturday night, you became familiar with it. The noise pulsed throughout the Washington Capitals‘ game against the Toronto Maple Leafs and crescendoed at the multiple pressure points. Every fan had been given a small red cowbell upon entry and, subjected to their second overtime in as many playoff games, they bled their nervous energy out through the noisemakers.

This time it took double overtime, and did not end how they hoped. The Capitals lost, 4-3, in their first double-overtime game since 2012 when Toronto right winger Kasperi Kapanen scored after 11:53 in the second extra period. Washington has split the first two games of the Stanley Cup playoff series and now heads to Toronto with home ice lost.

“It’s OK,” Alexander Ovechkin said. “Nobody say we’re gonna win 4-0 and move forward. It’s a battle. They’re a good team. We’re just gonna play game by game, shift by shift and gonna do our best.”

Both teams looked evenly matched in overtime but Kapanen got a good opportunity when Capitals defenseman John Carlson lost his stick and goalie Braden Holtby was focused on center Brian Boyle coming from behind the net.

“He’s got one of those long reaches and I didn’t see anyone coming out from behind so I assumed he’d either wrap or put it to that D-man coming down,” Holtby said. “I see, obviously, after John lost his stick. Just a tough break and we move on.”

Just as they did in Game 1 Thursday, the Capitals spent most of regulation playing from behind.

Saturday began with a crisper opening. However, the improved start was not enough to prevent the Leafs from scoring first.

Washington spent the first 10 minutes of the game living in its own offensive zone, but got derailed by penalties later in the period. All told, the Capitals spent eight minutes on the penalty kill in the first period alone, with forwards Justin Williams (high-sticking, interference), Ovechkin (embellishment) and Evgeny Kuznetsov (holding) all serving time.

James van Riemsdyk’s even-strength goal gave Toronto a 1-0 lead after 17:34. Because of all the Capitals‘ penalties, the Leafs finished the first period with an 11-8 shot advantage.

“It’s only two games, but we certainly haven’t scored the first goal twice,” Williams said. “We’ll try and do that in Game 3.”

It was the Leafs, however, who struggled to kill penalties. In the second period, defenseman Martin Marincin was called for slashing after 3:32 and Ovechkin tied the game for the Capitals with his first goal of the playoffs shortly after. The goal was Ovechkin’s 42nd in the playoffs in his career.

The Capitals took their first regulation-time lead of the playoffs after 11:06 when defenseman John Carlson scored a power play goal. Defenseman Connor Carrick was in the box for Toronto because of high-sticking. Minutes later, Kapanen evened the score.

The Capitals didn’t score on another power play when center Nazem Kadri went to the box for cross-checking with 5:01 left in the period, but came within 14 seconds of heading to the third period tied when defenseman Morgan Rielly scored from just inside the blue line, his shot potentially unseen by Holtby because of bodies in front of the net.

Yet again the Capitals trailed. They played from behind until midway through the third period when they put together a stretch of offense that made you wonder how that has ever been the case this series.

With the top line on the ice, energy built with each clack of the puck on a stick, always one manned by a player in a red jersey. The shift lasted almost a minute as the Capitals pressed, bombarding Toronto goalie Frederik Andersen, before center Nicklas Backstrom scored and tied the game at three.

“We had some good momentum, we had back-to-back shifts when we did it and hung onto the puck you saw we had some good zone time shifts and that’s where we created some,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz said.

The Capitals now head to Toronto where they will play Game 3 on Monday in the less friendly confines of the Air Canada Centre. They leave behind a fan base that is used to watching wins but still braces itself for the next loss, and may be bracing for several games to come.

“It’s a long series,” Trotz said. “We’ve got maybe another five to go in this series.”

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