TORONTO -- The Toronto Maple Leafs had the big advantage in shots on goal. They had the edge in power-play situations.
But as they began to wonder if they would ever score again, third-period goals from Matt Frattin and Nikolai Kulemin lifted them to a 3-2, come-from-behind win over the Washington Capitals on Thursday before an announced crowd of 19,374 at Air Canada Centre.
"There were a whole bunch of positives that happened for us after two periods," Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle said. "So we couldn't dwell on what had happened. The only thing we had to do was stay strong and persevere, push ahead, continue strong in the forecheck, don't let up."
James van Riemsdyk also scored for the Maple Leafs, who outshot the Capitals 40-22 in winning their second game in a row. Toronto (4-3-0) won at home for the first time this season.
Joel Ward and Alex Ovechkin scored for Washington (1-5-1).
Frattin scored his fourth goal of the season on an assist from Nazem Kadri at 9:53 of the third to put the Maple Leafs into the lead after the Capitals were sloppy in trying to clear the puck.
The Capitals tried to come right back after the goal. They buzzed James Reimer in the Toronto net for a spell but did not score.
"I thought for 52 minutes we didn't let up," Carlyle said. "But for eight minutes of the game, once we scored the 3-2 goal, we kind of sat back and we let them come back in waves. But that's part of the game and we found a way to win the hockey game."
The Leafs tied the game at 7:40 of the third period when Michal Neuvirth couldn't control a shot taken by Michael Kostka and a sprawling Kulemin scooped the puck into the goal for his first of the season.
"Those are definitely character wins," van Riemsdyk said. "You can't get down when you're playing a good game like that. We were getting our chances and they just didn't seem to go in for us. Those are games you've got to find a way to win. Good teams find a way to win those games and it's something we can learn from."
The Maple Leafs could not capitalize on their power-play and shots-on-goal advantages in the first period, and they had to be content with a 1-1 tie at the first intermission.
The Capitals took advantage of an early power play in the second period when Ovechkin scored his second goal of the season on a 47-foot wrist shot past Reimer from the edge the left face-off circle at 2:38. Mikhail Grabovski was off for tripping. The Maple Leafs had three more power plays, some on marginal calls, in the second period and did not score, and they finished the night 1 for 8 on the man advantage.
"I think tonight you spend so much energy trying to kill those penalties that it drains you a little bit," Capitals coach Adam Oates said. "I'd have to look at all the calls but for some of the plays maybe the guys have to be a little more focused.
"Killing the penalties, the guys use a lot of energy. You don't get in a rhythm. Guys don't play and when they come out they're not as warm as they should be and it affects their flow. Before you know it, it's a choppy game and that doesn't really suit us."
Caps' forward Mike Ribeiro said a lack of discipline was a problem. "That's what has been costing since the beginning of the year, if we don't change that it's going to keep snowballing," he said. "We have to be disciplined on everything, our shifts, how we play, how we shoot the puck, how we kill penalties. It seems like it's five minutes we're undisciplined and it costs us."
The Capitals took the lead at 1:36 of the first period. Ward was left unchecked, and he scored his fourth goal of the season on a 19-foot snap shot from a sharp angle.
Phil Kessel hit a goalpost during the Maple Leafs' first power play of the game. The Leafs tied it on their next power-play opportunity after Jason Chimera was given four minutes in the penalty box, for hooking and unsportsmanlike conduct. Van Riemsdyk had a clear shot, and he notched his fourth goal of the season at 8:19 after Neuvirth's save on Kessel.
NOTES: Forward Brooks Laich participated in the morning skate with the Capitals, the first time this season he has been on the ice with the team since he suffered a groin injury playing in Switzerland during the lockout. The 29-year-old said he expects to practice regularly with the team but no date has been set for his return. He has been skating for the past 2 1/2 weeks. ... The Maple Leafs assigned defenseman Jake Gardiner to the Toronto Marlies of the AHL. They recalled forward Ryan Hamilton, who scored three goals in the AHL all-star game and was named MVP. He replaced Mike Brown (shoulder) on the fourth line. ... The Leafs claimed forward Frazer McLaren off waivers from the San Jose Sharks on Thursday. He is expected to join the Marlies. ... The Caps are home to the Philadelphia Flyers on Friday. ... The Leafs are home to the Boston Bruins on Saturday.