Sheldon Keefe wants better effort from Leafs with Capitals up next

League: NHL

Posted on: 27 Mar, 2024 at 11:15 PM

Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

The Washington Capitals will be facing what should be a snarly opponent when they visit the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday night.

Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe was not pleased with the way his team played on Tuesday in a 6-3 home loss to the New Jersey Devils, and he let his players know it.

Toronto (40-22-9, 89 points) twice led by one goal against New Jersey but hurt itself with lethargic play, leading to a number of costly mistakes.

The Maple Leafs grabbed a 3-2 lead in the second period when Auston Matthews scored his league-leading 59th goal of the season. But the Devils took over from there, netting four unanswered markers to run away with the game.

"We just overdid it," Keefe said. "It was just really immature, all the way through our game. I thought it was immature from our most experienced players, our leaders. And then our players who are immature, our inexperienced guys, we made lots of mistakes here (Tuesday)."

It was a different story for the Capitals (36-26-9, 81 points) on Tuesday. They defeated the visiting Detroit Red Wings 4-3 in overtime, with Dylan Strome scoring two goals, including the game-winner. He now has 25 goals on the season.

"Phenomenal," Washington coach Spencer Carbery said, referring to Strome. "I'm so proud because he's just such a gamer. He wants to win so badly and you can feel it when you talk to him. You feel it on the bench. So, it's not about him. It's not about his own individual stats, goals, assists. He wants to score so badly because he wants to win."

The Capitals will be out for revenge against the Maple Leafs. Matthews had two goals and three assists on March 20 when visiting Toronto defeated Washington 7-3.

Keefe is hoping that the leaders of his team can step up in the rematch to power the Maple Leafs to another win over the Capitals.

"They've got to be the example." Keefe said. "John Tavares has been the example for us. He's been outstanding for us for a long period of time. He himself got carried away (Tuesday). That's our captain.

"So, if that's going to happen, well, the rest of our bench is just making it up as we go. And when you do that, you open the door for the opposition to have a good night."

Toronto wasn't at full strength against New Jersey, playing without forward Mitch Marner (ankle) and defensemen Joel Edmundson (undisclosed) and Morgan Rielly (upper-body injury).

Washington captain Alex Ovechkin's five-game goal-scoring streak ended on Tuesday. He tallied twice in the recent loss to Toronto.

"I mean, every game feels like a playoff game at this point," said Capitals center Nic Dowd, who scored Washington's first goal on Tuesday. "This is our playoffs right now. That, I think, was big because (the Red Wings) are so close to us in the standings, yes. But the next game's going to feel the exact same way."

The Capitals are clinging to the second and final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference, two points ahead of the Detroit Red Wings.

Toronto sits in third in the Atlantic Division.

--Field Level Media