For a team focused on the method in which it plays games just as much as the outcome, Thursday night offered nothing desirable in either regard.

The Washington Capitals played a sloppy, penalty-filled game devoid of flow and focus in the early going, yet somehow carried a one-goal lead into the final 20 minutes. But for the second consecutive game they failed to see the advantage to a positive conclusion.

The Toronto Maple Leafs scored a pair of even-strength, third-period goals thanks to failed defensive execution to defeat the Capitals, 3-2, at Air Canada Centre. With a 1-5-1 record Washington sits last in the Southeast Division, Eastern Conference and the entire NHL. The Capitals had registered points in the previous 103 games they led at the end of two periods before this week, and now they've lost two in regulation.

All told the Capitals were whistled for eight minor penalties — all of the unnecessary or preventable variety — and spent 12 minutes and 11 seconds short-handed. Toronto recorded only one power-play goal, but it was more a reflection of a hapless and unorganized special teams unit than the Capitals' penalty killing.

In fact, while the constant time spent down a man might not have led to much damage on the scoreboard directly, it prevented Washington's players from establishing a rhythm and it likely led to a lack of energy in the third period as well.

"You spend so much energy trying to kill those penalties that maybe you run out of a little bit of juice," Coach Adam Oates said. "For some of the plays, guys have got to be maybe a little bit more focused on their sticks."