[March 17, 2014]WASHINGTON — Three goals has been a
magic number for the Washington Capitals this season.
When they score three or more, they own a record of 32-5-5
record. When they score two or fewer, they are 0-22-5.
Washington rolled out to an early lead on first-period goals by
right winger Troy Brouwer, left winger Jason Chimera and right
winger Joel Ward, then leaned heavily on goaltender Jaroslav Halak
to secure a hard-fought 4-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs on
Sunday afternoon at the Verizon Center.
"I thought we played well enough to win," Chimera said. "Third
period, we did a better job of protecting the lead. We can't give
that team chances with the skill they have."
The win moved the Capitals within one point of the New York Rangers
for the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference, setting the
stage for a crucial three-game California road trip against the
Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks.
Fourteen other NHL teams have made that trip, with only four coming
away with four points.
Asked a realistic goal for the road trip, Capitals defenseman John
Carlson said, "Win every game."
Halak turned aside 27 of 29 shots to post his third victory in five
games since coming to Washington from Buffalo in a March 5 trade
that sent goaltender Michal Neuvirth to the Sabres.
Brouwer added an empty-netter with 3.9 seconds remaining for the
The Maple Leafs (36-25-8) fought back with goals from right winger
Troy Bodie and defenseman Dion Phaneuf but lost for the second time
in three games to slip to 36-25-8. With 80 points, the second-place
Leafs remain one point ahead of the Tampa Bay Lightning in the
"Obviously, we were pretty flat in the first period," Maple Leafs
coach Randy Carlyle said. "We didn't really skate. It looked like we
were still in for our afternoon nap."
The first 40 minutes could not have been more lopsided for both
After the Capitals dominated the Leafs by outscoring them 3-1 and
outshooting them 14-2, Toronto climbed back into the game in the
second period, outshooting Washington 20-6 and climbing to within
3-2 on goals by right winger Troy Bodie and defenseman Dion Phaneuf.
The Capitals used the NHL's second-ranked power play to grab a 3-0
lead. A hooking penalty by Toronto center Jay McClement led to Troy
Brouwer's 19th goal of the season and 10th on the power play. Caps
left winger Marcus Johansson found Brouwer in the slot and he
snapped a shot past Toronto goalie James Reimer 3:34 into the game.
Capitals left winger Jason Chimera made it 2-0 less than four
minutes later when a shot by right winger Joel Ward caromed off his
skate and into the net. A video review stood up, and when Phaneuf
went to the box for slashing Johansson, the Capitals struck again on
the power play. Ward finished off a backhand pass from Dustin Penner
for his 20th goal of the season and a 3-0 lead.
Penner picked up his first point with the Capitals with the primary
assist, and rookie left winger Evgeny Kuznetsov had his fourth
assist in four NHL games.
"We weren't good enough in the first 10 minutes," Reimer said. "It
just happens. You can't spot a team three goals. We just weren't
sharp, myself included."
The Leafs were badly outplayed in the opening 20 minutes but got the
break they needed when Bodie scored off a rush with 2:45 remaining,
beating Halak high over his right shoulder for his third goal of the
season and first sine Jan. 25.
The Leafs came out storming in the second period, forcing the
Capitals to take three penalties. Phaneuf drew the Caps within 3-2
with a seeing-eye shot from the point that eluded three players and
hit the back of the net behind Halak for his eighth goal of the
Toronto's third-ranked power play had three cracks at Washington's
22nd-ranked penalty kill but failed to score as Halak turned aside
19 of 20 shots in the period.
"It was a battle," Carlson said. "They're a really good team and
they have forwards who can really fly out there. They have a great
power play and our penalty kill did a great job."
NOTES: Washington was without LW Brooks Laich, who missed his 18th
game with a nagging groin injury. Adam Oates said after the game
that Laich would head to St. Louis on Monday to see groin specialist
Michael Brunt and that he could miss the remainder of the regular
season. ... Toronto G Jonathan Bernier sat out the game with a
lower-body injury. ... The Capitals do not return to the Verizon
Center until March 25. They begin a three-game road trip on Tuesday
against the Anaheim Ducks and continue with games in Los Angeles on
Wednesday and San Jose on Friday. Eight of Washington's final 14
games are against teams that began the weekend among the top 10 in
the overall standings. The Maple Leafs close out their eight-day,
five-city road trip with a visit to Detroit on Tuesday. After that
game, seven of their final 12 games will be at the Air Canada