(John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

The Capitals entered Monday’s Game 3 in somewhat of a desperate state. The upstart Maple Leafs gave them a tougher-than-expected test at home over the weekend: The Capitals had to fight hard just to win Game 1 in overtime, and then they lost Game 2 in double overtime.

Here are the best and worst moments from the Capitals’ 4-3 overtime loss in Game 3 at Toronto.

Worst inevitability: For the third consecutive game this series and the fifth time in the Capitals’ last six playoff games, regulation ended in a tie. As if being subjected to a fourth sudden-death period in five days wasn’t bad enough, the Maple Leafs had 1:45 remaining on Washington forward Lars Eller’s high-sticking penalty to start overtime. That was eight seconds too many for the Capitals.

Worst ending: One minute 37 seconds into the extra period, Tyler Bozak redirected a pass from Nazem Kadri past Braden Holtby to give the Maple Leafs a 2-1 series lead. Game 4 is Wednesday in Toronto.

Best penalty kill: Toronto’s first power play of the game came 3:34 into the third period, when Kevin Shattenkirk was whistled for delay of game. Toronto’s second power play of the game came a little more than six minutes later, when Jay Beagle was sent off for interference. Washington’s PK unit — and Holtby, in particular — were up to the task both times, which is why the game remained tied and Air Canada Centre’s roof remained in place  … until overtime.

Worst offense: While the Maple Leafs peppered Holtby with shots on the power play and at even strength, the Capitals didn’t register their first shot of the third period against Frederik Andersen until the 13:26 mark. Toronto outshot Washington 9-3 in the third period.

Worst close call: Kuznetsov ripped a shot off the post with 4:08 remaining. The ping was the second-worst sound of the third period, behind only the ‘Holt-by, Holt-by’ chants from the Toronto crowd.

Worst equalizer: William Nylander, whose dad used to play for the Capitals, scored off a rebound with 40 seconds remaining in the second period to knot Game 3 at 3-3 entering the third period. Three cheers for playoff hockey, eh?

Best goal: Kuznetsov’s disappearing act during last year’s playoffs (one goal, one assist in 12 games) is one of the reasons the Capitals didn’t make it out of the second round. The 24-year-old Russian is off to a much better start this postseason. Kuznetsov, who had an assist in Game 1, scored from a bad angle on a rebound off a shot by Marcus Johansson to give the Capitals a 3-1 lead at 5:39 of the second period.

Worst penalty: About a minute later, Toronto’s Matt Martin gave Washington a golden opportunity to add to its lead when he took a double-minor for roughing after Matt Hunwick was assessed a penalty for hooking.

Worst missed opportunity: If the Capitals lose this series, they might look back at their inability to score on the ensuing five-on-three, for a full two minutes, as the turning point.

Best swipe: Toronto’s penalty kill led to an apparent breakaway for Mitch Marner, who had no one between him and the goal. The only problem was he didn’t yet have the puck. As Marner approached the blue line, Holtby made the go-for-broke decision to leave his crease and make a sprawling poke check at the puck. If Holtby whiffed, the Maple Leafs would’ve been staring at an empty net. Holtby didn’t miss.

Worst traffic: After killing off another Capitals power play, the Maple Leafs cut Washington’s lead to 3-2 five minutes later when Kadri rifled a shot past Holtby with Connor Brown providing a screen in front. The Capitals outshot the Maple Leafs 15-8 in the second period, but Toronto made their chances count.

Best breakfast: The Capitals’ 2-1 lead at the end of the first period means free McGriddles for everyone in the DMV on Tuesday. I’ve never had a McGriddle, but I would’ve crushed three or four during the first intermission, if only to prevent my stomach from eating itself. Strangely, I’m no longer hungry.

Worst puck luck: After the Capitals took an early 2-0 lead, Maple Leafs wunderkind Auston Matthews breathed life into Toronto’s Air Canada Centre with his first career playoff goal at 14:08 of the first period. The 19-year-old rookie scored 40 goals during the regular season and it’s a safe bet that few of them looked as weird as this one, which involved the puck bouncing off John Carlson’s stick, Nate Schmidt’s face and then onto a platter in front of Holtby. More on Schmidt later.

Best physicality: About 30 seconds before to Matthews’s goal, Kadri crunched Brooks Orpik along the boards. The first period featured 27 combined hits (14 by Washington, 13 by Toronto) and only 17 combined shots (7, 10).

Best lead: For the first time this series, the Capitals scored first, as Nicklas Backstrom gave Washington a 1-0 advantage with a goal 2:43 into the game off a beautiful feed from the speedy Schmidt.

Best space: Backstrom’s goal came with the teams playing four-on-four after Justin Williams and Morgan Rielly were sent off for holding and unsportsmanlike conduct, respectively, at the 1:33 mark. It was Washington’s first four-on-four goal of the season.

Best cushion: Two minutes six seconds later, Alex Ovechkin blasted a slap shot past Frederik Andersen for his 43rd career playoff goal and a 2-0 Capitals lead. T.J. Oshie, who also tallied an assist on Washington’s first goal, and Backstrom were credited with the helpers. Two goals on two shots? That’ll do, but the Capitals discovered that efficiency wasn’t sustainable.

Worst streak-ender*: Karl Alzner has broken his hand so many times throughout his career his wife opens all the jars around the house, but he managed to play in 599 consecutive games, including the playoffs, over seven years before Monday. About 40 minutes before the opening faceoff, the Capitals announced that Alzner is out for Game 3 and day-to-day going forward with an upper-body injury. Alzner’s streak of playing in 540 consecutive regular season games remains intact.

Best opportunity: Alzner’s absence meant that Schmidt returned to the lineup after being relegated to the role of seventh defenseman when Washington acquired Shattenkirk at the trade deadline. Schmidt made his presence felt immediately and showed off his wheels on the Capitals’ first goal.

Best excitement: For hockey-mad Toronto, which has hosted 11 baseball playoff games in the past two years, Monday marked the Maple Leafs’ first home playoff game in four years and only their fourth home playoff game since 2004. Air Canada Centre, where upper-level tickets were selling for at least $250 a pop, was rocking.

Best rebuttal: “I’ve been in to Toronto down the stretch where there have been some exciting games, and that crowd is not even comparable to Washington’s crowd,” CSN analyst and former NHL goalie Brent Johnson said before the game. “It really isn’t. I know they’re going to be really excited tonight, and that’s great for them, but Washington’s arena is much louder.”

Worst habit: Smoking, but how can you not love Maple Leafs superfan Jason Maslakow? The Ontario native drove to D.C. for Saturday’s Game 2 and entered Verizon Center with his face painted, his beard dyed blue and the top of his head shaved to look like a Stanley Cup. After TV cameras showed Maslakow with an unlit cigarette dangling from the corner of his mouth, he was well on his way to becoming known as “Dart Guy.” The Maple Leafs hooked him up with tickets to Game 3. Like Verizon Center, the ACC is a smoke-free facility.

Best tweet: Unlike Maslakow’s cigarette, this after Ovechkin’s goal was lit. (It was also a lot funnier before the Capitals blew not one, but two, two-goal leads.)

Worst confusion: NHL teams that have won Game 3 of a best-of-seven game series that was previous tied 1-1 have gone on to win the series 68 percent of the time. Monday’s result wouldn’t seem to bode well for Washington, then, but the Capitals’ recent playoff history in relation to this stat is bizarre.

Game information

Game 3: Washington Capitals (1st place, 55-19-8, 118 points) vs. Toronto Maple Leafs (wild card 2, 40-27-15, 95 points)
Date and time: Monday, 7 p.m.
Channel: CSN
Location: Air Canada Centre, Toronto
Game 1 result: at Capitals 3, Maple Leafs 2 (OT)
Game 2 result: Maple Leafs 4, at Capitals 3 (2OT)
Regular season series: Capitals 2, Maple Leafs 1

Remaining schedule

Game 4: Wednesday in Toronto, 7 p.m. (CSN)
Game 5: Friday in Washington, TBD (CSN)
Game 6 (if necessary): Sunday, April 23, in Toronto, TBD (TBD)
Game 7 (if necessary): Tuesday, April 25, in Washington, TBD (CSN)

Everything you need to know

>> Defenseman Karl Alzner missed the Capitals’ morning skate on Monday, and Coach Barry Trotz said the reliable blue-liner is a “game-time decision” for tonight’s pivotal playoff contest. The team attributed Alzner’s absence to taking a “maintenance day,” and if Alzner doesn’t play in Game 3 between the Capitals and Maple Leafs, it will be his first game missed in seven years. As a result, Nate Schmidt might get a chance to suit up for Game 3. When he was on the ice, the Capitals generated almost 10 scoring chances per 60 minutes of ice time after adjusting for zone and score effects while allowing only six, resulting in an expected goal differential of plus-10 over 845 minutes of ice time.

>> Meanwhile, the Leafs will have someone back on the ice: Defenseman Nikita Zaitsev, who missed Games 1 and 2 with an upper-body injury sustained in the Maple Leafs’ regular-season finale. And here’s something else to look for in Game 3: The return of “Dart Guy,” the social-media-famous Maple Leafs fan with a cigarette dangling from his mouth. He’s been hooked up with tickets to Game 3 and Game 4.

>> “We’ve been chasing this series a little bit,” Capitals Coach Barry Trotz said after Saturday’s loss. To regain control, one tweak Trotz could make is swapping his top two centers, Nicklas Backstrom and Evgeny Kuznetsov, in an effort to jump start the top line while giving Toronto a different look.

>> The expectation was that the Capitals would have an easy time against the Maple Leafs, who didn’t clinch their postseason berth until the second-to-last game. But to Washington’s credit, it never underestimated the young, feisty Maple Leafs. “I think it’s exactly what we thought it would be coming in,” defenseman Brooks Orpik said.

>> A decade ago, before a trip to Washington carried all kinds of stakes and expectations, the empty, untouched ice made William Nylander feel like a professional hockey player. He was 11 years old then and his father, Michael Nylander, played for the Capitals. “You see those guys doing it. You look up to them, and you think they are so cool,” William Nylander said. “It made me want to get there, and it also made me think it was possible.” That ambition eventually led Nylander to the Maple Leafs, the team now pushing the top-seeded Capitals in the first round.

>> Both teams face questions as the series moves north of the border for Monday’s Game 3. The Leafs lost a second top defenseman when Roman Polak was helped off the ice in the second period with a lower-body injury. But how troubling are the events of Saturday night going to be for the Capitals? They’ve played from behind for much of the series thus far and although they’ve been able to force overtime twice, this is not a safe or comfortable way to live.

>> The Leafs are a bunch of upstarts to be sure. But even though they look to be in good shape heading home for Game 3, their depleted corps of defensemen may spell trouble for them as the series continues to unfold.

>> As mentioned above, the Caps have been living dangerously. It caught up with them in a major way in Game 2 as their bad habits caught up to them. Barry Svrluga takes a look at Washington getting a stiffer test than they bargained for, and what it might expect to find upon arriving in hockey-mad Toronto in the midst of a very competitive series.

>> If you want to relive Game 2, or just reminisce on all there was to like — and dislike — about how the double overtime thriller went down, have a look at our best-worst analysis, where everything from the best marketing ploy to the worst agita to the best (legal) hit can be found.

>> Or maybe you need a distraction from the action on the ice? Meet the Toronto super fan who paints his face with a maple leaf, shaves the Stanley Cup into the top of the head and “GO LEAFS” into the back of his head, and dyes both that hair and the hair on his chin different shades of blue.

>> By the time the Caps won Game 1 in overtime on a top-shelf shot barely under the crossbar by their least likely sniping threat, Tom Wilson, The Post’s Tom Boswell muttered to himself, “Am I really ready for this?” It’s doubtful that he is, and it’s unlikely that many Washingtonians have any idea what we are all in for.

>> The Post’s Dan Steinberg argues that the Capitals actually deserve to win the Stanley Cup this year: “There’s not much more you can say about the most complete Capitals team we’ve ever seen. They had the most points in the NHL this season, the best goal differential, the fewest goals allowed, the most wins at home. They had the best goal differential in the first period, and the best goal differential in the third period. They had 59 points in their first 41 games, and 59 points in their last 41 games. They were the best hockey team out there, and it wasn’t that close.”

>> We all know the decade-long narrative for the Capitals: They’re a talented team that can’t get past the second round. Why is this year different? Here are five reasons to be optimistic about the team’s Stanley Cup chances, and because this is the Capitals, the five reasons to be pessimistic.

>> Meanwhile, Fancy Stats’ Neil Greenberg makes the case that, despite their reputation, the Capitals aren’t chokers in the playoffs: “The tendency is to set postseason expectations based on regular season performance, but history shows this to be a bit unfair. For example, only eight of the last 31 Presidents’ Trophy winners — awarded to the team with the best overall record during the regular season — have won the Stanley Cup. Just three others made the Stanley Cup Finals. In the NBA, by comparison, the team with the most wins has gone on to win a title 14 times in that same span, with two others making the NBA Finals.”

>> “I think this is the time for the Washington Capitals.” So says NBC analyst Eddie Olczyk, who is far from alone in his prediction. As for the Capitals’ Kevin Shattenkirk, he urges nervous fans to let go of the past and think happy thoughts: “I think not worrying about what happened in the past, it’s hard to do, but you need to push it out of your mind.”

>> Five years ago, goaltender Braden Holtby was a quirky curiosity who hadn’t yet endured the most discouraging developments of a young career. Entering these playoffs, Holtby is nothing short of a franchise backbone, a reason to have confidence rather than questions. There’s no overstating the importance of that development, writes Barry Svrluga.

>> The list of similarities between the Capitals and their first-round postseason adversary is short — Toronto is the youthful upstart team and Washington is the veteran one familiar with this stage. But nine years ago, the Capitals were in the same position as these Maple Leafs, a young core making the playoffs for the first time.

>> Goalie Braden Holtby is a fashion maven whose wardrobe reflects his unique taste. Says former teammate Joel Ward: “It’s a bit of everything, which I think reflects him. It’s like New York meets Montana meets California.”