The Washington Capitals gambled on this one.
With one game remaining prior to the all-star break and their mandated week off, the Caps were looking to end their six-game losing streak and head into the mini-holiday on a winning high.
Alex Ovechkin, who could have chosen to sit this one out and serve his one-game suspension for missing the NHL All-Star Game, decided to play. The team decided to go back with Braden Holtby, 24 hours after he coughed up seven goals in a 7-6 overtime loss to the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday.
Neither choice paid off, thanks in no small part to Toronto Maple Leafs forward Nazem Kadri in a 5-3 win for the host Leafs.
You see, Kadri didn’t seem all that interested in allowing the Caps to end their streak against an equally struggling Leafs team. Sure, the Leafs didn’t have the six-game losing streak entering Wednesday, but both teams each only had three wins in their past 10.
His hat trick (and four-point night) sealed Washington’s fate.
Ovechkin tried to do his part.
He scored in the game, his fourth goal in the past two nights after his 23rd hat trick on Tuesday, to put the Caps ahead 2-1 in the second period. The goal was historic as it was the Great 8’s 1,179th NHL point, tying him for first among Russia-born players with fellow legend Sergei Fedorov.
Nicklas Backstrom gave the Caps a 1-0 lead on the power play in the first, a goal that was answered by Kadri’s first of the game.
Ovi’s goal regained the lead in the second, but two goals 3:08 apart gave the Leafs their first lead of the night.
The go-ahead goal was of particular importance, given that it was Auston Matthew who fired it home, ending a seven-game goalless drought. It was just his second goal in 14 games.
Kadri rattled off his second and third of the game in the third to give the Leads a 5-2 lead before Matt Niskanen made it 5-3.
Frederik Andersen had another solid game, stopping 41 shots.
The Leafs moved three points up on the idle Boston Bruins for second place in the Atlantic Division.
Washington, despite all the losing, sits second in the Metropolitan, three points back of the leading New York Islanders.
Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck