"It's frustrating anytime you give up a 4-1 lead in the third period.  You're gonna be angry.  It doens't happen and it's not supposed to happen."  Coach Bruce Boudreau

THE RESULT:  The Washington Capitals fairly dominated every minute of the first two periods, skating circles around a vastly inferior team, skill-wise, taking a 4-1 lead into the second intermission.  Beat writers were already writing their stories, just waiting for a final score.

Unfortunately, the National Hockey League still asks both teams to play three 20-minute periods.

As good as the Capitals were in the first two frames, that's as poorly as they played in the third, and allowed the less-talented Toronto Maple Leafs to tie the game in regulation and eventually win in the shootout, 5-4.

"We quit playing in our zone," said Caps head coach Bruce Boudreau.  "We just wanted to play safe.  You can't just allow a team to come into our zone all night long.  When they were in our zone, our positioning -- by both defensemen and forwards -- was really bad."

Washington (18-8-3, 39 points) had problems with Toronto's forechecking all night long, from the first shift of the game until the last.  But the Leafs had trouble moving the puck, connecting on passes, and whiffing on shots -- until the last three minutes of the game when Toronto scored twice in 59 seconds, with the game-tying goal at 18:36 by Clarke MacArthur.

MacArthur was a pain in the Caps' side all night long, and he really appeared to get under their skin.  Early in the first period, the gritty winger took a high shot at Nicklas Backstrom that was not called, and for the rest of the affair different Capitals, including Matt Hendricks, Jason Chimera and Matt Bradley all challenged the winger.

But MacArthur had the last laugh, as his wrist shot beat goalie Michael Neuvirth to even things up with less than two minutes to play.

If the Caps had exerted as much energy in the third period playing defense as they did trying to chase down MacArthur, the final might have been 7-1.

Captain Alex Ovechkin was at a loss for words after the game.

"I don't know what happened the last ten minutes,' he said.  "Four to one lead after two periods is pretty big.  Losing a game like this is pretty bad for us.  It's a lesson and it's good we have another game soon."

To add injury to insult, defenseman Jeff Schultz was injured in the second period and did not return.  After the game, Boudreau revealed Schultz sustained a fractured thumb and will miss four-to-six weeks.

The loss and injury put a pall over the locker room, and detracts from the great game Mathieu Perreault had upon his recall from AHL Hershey.  The diminutive center had two goals and provided much-needed spark in his first game back. 

Perreault has a history of having good first games.  "Every time I get called up it seems like the first game I'm flying," Perreault said.  "Now it's just a matter of doing it every night."

Perreault even got ice time in overtime -- and the second shot in the shootout.  "It shows they have confidence in me and can play me in the big situation."

"I felt good tonight.  It's just unfortunate that we came out with a loss here.  In the third we got away from our game and it cost us."

Boudreau praised Perreault's effort, but used it to take a backhanded shot at the rest of his team.

"He brought great energy tonight, like we thought.  If some of the other forwards had played with as much energy as him, we wouldn't have been in the situation we were in."

THE GOOD:  Mathieu Perreault had a great game, centering Alexander Semin and Brooks Laich.  He displayed the energy and skill the Caps really love from the little guy.  So many times he seems to step in with these games, but then disappears. The Caps could really benefit from him finally clicking and sticking around this time.

THE BAD:  Schultz' injury could be devastating.  It makes the Scott Hannan deal look even bigger now, but puts the Caps right back where they were before the trade -- thin on defense with a bunch of lingering injuries.

THE UGLY:  The comeback started with Mikhail Grabovski's goal from the high slot at 4:15 of the third.  Alex Ovechkin seemed to lose his positioning on the play, looking for a pass instead of back-checking. 

Asked if Grabovski was Ovechkin's man, he replied, "It was exactly where he should have been.  When it went out to the blue line he was going out -- I think he was looking for the redirect and to go, rather than to come to the slot, just in case something like what happened, happened."

On the game-tying goal, MacArthur was all alone at the far post.  The closest Capital to him:  Ovechkin.

THE STATS:  Mathieu Perreault (1) from Tom Poti (2) and Alexander Semin (15) at 2:55 of 1st.  Mike Knuble (5) from Nicklas Backstrom (20) and Tom Poti (3) at 14:58 of 1st (PP). Mathieu Perreault (2) from Brooks Laich (12) at 6:46 of 2nd.  Alex Ovechkin (12) from Tom Poti (4) and Nicklas Backstrom (21) at 13:50 of 2nd.

NEXT GAME:  Thursday at 7:00 pm against Florida Panthers.


3. Mike Knuble.  Picked up his own rebound on the power play and scored for the second time in three nights. 
2. Tom Poti.  Three assists in the game for the first time since he was patrolling the blue line for the Islanders.
1. Mathieu Perreault. The diminutive center-iceman scored his first two goals of the season and provided a much needed spark in his second stint with the club this season, much like his first call-up.


D.J. King fought Colton Orr in the second period.  It was just King's third fight of the season.

Ovechkin scored his 12th goal of the season, giving him goals in back-toback games after going nine games scoreless.  He has points in six of the last seven games (two goals, seven assists).

The Caps won 57 percent of their face-offs, and have won 50 percent of more in 15 of their last 16 games.

Washington was three-for-four on the penalty kill and are 21-24 (87.5%) in their last six games.