Caps blow past Leafs for eighth straight win

The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

WASHINGTON -- This time, there was no third-period collapse.
This time, the Washington Capitals took a four-goal lead, kept their foot on the gas and ran over the road-weary Toronto Maple Leafs for a 5-1 win in front of a full house on Tuesday night at the Verizon Center.
Alex Ovechkin and Martin Erat each had a goal and an assist for the Caps, who stretched their win streak to eight games, their longest since a nine-game win streak midway through the 2010-11 season.
The win also erases the memories of Saturday night, when they blew two four-goal leads before settling for a 6-5 overtime win over the Tampa Bay Lightning.
"Because it happened once we were going to make sure it didn't happen again," said Troy Brouweer, who picked up his 17th goal of the season. "We were solid in our D zone. Our confidence is as high as it's been in a very long time. Any time you can put eight wins together in a lot of different ways you know everybody's coming to play every night."
The Capitals' victory moved them closer to their fifth Southeast Division title in six years. Coupled with the Winnipeg Jets' 4-3 overtime win over the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Caps remained four points ahead of the Jets in the race for the division title. Both teams have five games remaining.
The Maple Leafs, who were coming off a 2-0 loss on Monday night in New Jersey, lost consecutive games for the first time since March 14 and 16 against the Penguins and Jets. They had gone 9-1-3 after the two losses.
The Leafs also failed in their bid to clinch a berth in the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time since 2004.
"We weren't very good," Leafs coach Randy Carlyle said. "We didn't do a lot of things well. We circled all night. We didn't play stop-and-go hockey and it looked like we had nothing in the tank, nothing to give."
The Capitals carried a 1-0 lead into the second period thanks to defenseman Jack Hillen's third goal of the season. They built on that lead with a three-goal second period, getting even-strength goals from Erat and Brouwer before Ovechkin made it 4-0 with his league-leading 28th goal of the season.
Ovechkin positioned himself at the top of the left circle and blasted a bullet past Toronto goaltender Ben Scrivens (7-9-0), who was giving starter James Reimer a breather. Ovechkin also assisted on Erat's first goal as a Capital, giving him 19 goals and nine assists in his last 18 games. The Capitals are 14-3-1 during that stretch.
"He's obviously got an unbelievable shot, a world-class shot," Scrivens said. "You've just got to try to give yourself the best chance to stop it. He's got a shot that's beaten a lot of goalies in this league, so it's a challenge every time."
Ovechkin downplayed his scoring streak, saying it's the team's success he's focusing on.
"It's always nice to get the two points and put pressure on different teams," Ovechkin said.
The Maple Leafs avoided a shutout at the hands of Braden Holtby (20-11-1) when Mikhail Grabovksi scored 3:05 into the third period. But Washington clamped down defensively, received a power-play goal from Marcus Johansson and skated away with the four-goal win.
Ovechkin got the home crowd into the game late in the first period when he took a charging penalty for rushing to the defense of teammate Nicklas Backstrom, who was driven into the boards by Toronto center Jay McClement without a penalty.
"We'll kill that penalty any day," Holtby said. "It's great to see Ovi doing that. That's a leadership role he's taking on. It wasn't just a little tap. It had meaning behind it."
NOTES: The Capitals were without right winger Joel Ward, who missed his fourth straight game with a contusion on his left knee, and center-left winger Brooks Laich, who missed his sixth straight game with a groin injury. Laich, who has missed all but nine games this season, is expected to forgo surgery and try to rehab his way back into the lineup by the start of the playoffs. ... Maple Leafs right winger Joffrey Lupul returned to the lineup after missing the previous five games with a head injury. He replaced Clarke MacArthur. ... The Maple Leafs had their streak of 26 straight successful penalty kills snapped by Ovechkin's second-period power-play goal. The Capitals arrived with the No. 1 power play in the NHL and have now scored 12 power-play goals in their last 10 games. ... Ovechkin has a point in all but four career games against Toronto (25 goals, 21 assists in 30 games). ... Maple Leafs forward Phil Kessel played in his 499th NHL game. The Capitals return to action Thursday night when they begin a two-game Canadian trip in Ottawa, followed by a Saturday night game in Montreal. The Leafs will return home to face the New York Rangers Thursday night before hitting the road for games in Ottawa, Tampa and Florida.

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