Toronto at Washington

Ovechkin scores twice to lead Capitals past Maple Leafs


WASHINGTON -- Brooks Laich quickly forgave Alexander Ovechkin for not passing the puck as Washington Capitals teammates approached an empty net in the final minute of a 4-1 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Sunday.

After all, Laich was satisfied to have scored twice already.

And he was pleased that the Capitals wrapped up yet another victory, one that moved them into second place in the Eastern Conference, behind Boston.

"We got back to the bench, he said, 'Sorry,"' Laich said. "And I was like, 'No, you've got to go put it in the net. The game's more important."'

Ovechkin added that easy, late goal to the tiebreaker he netted with 10 seconds left in the second period, raising his season total to 25 goals.

Laich, meanwhile, is up to 10 after his first two-goal game since March helped the Capitals improve their home record to an East-leading 15-1-1. Their 10-point lead atop the Southeast Division is their largest margin since March 2001.

Five of Laich's goals have come in the past eight games, following a chat with coach Bruce Boudreau.

The gist of that conversation?

"He's such a good skater and he's fearless and he's got a good shot," Boudreau said. "So why doesn't he use his best attributes and shoot the puck and go to the net?"

Laich followed the instructions.

"I'm working just as hard as I was before. Just sometimes they go in, sometimes they don't," the forward said. "Right now, they're going in. It's fun when they're going in."

Jose Theodore made 23 saves to win his third consecutive start for Washington, his first such streak since signing a $9 million, two-year deal in the offseason as a free agent. He's been splitting starts, but Brent Johnson is sidelined now with a hip injury.

"When you do play, you get in a rhythm," Theodore said. "I always say the best way to get in a groove is to play, even when things are not going well."

Everything seems to be going just right for the Capitals at home, where they have won six games in a row. When you add in a six-game home winning streak at the end of last season, they have won 21 of their past 23 games in Washington.

On Sunday, when former Capitals star Mike Gartner's No. 11 jersey was retired during a pregame ceremony, a sellout crowd of 18,277 showed up, many wearing the team color red.

Attendance is up about 33 percent for the Capitals compared to this time last season.

"If there's 18,000 people pushing you, you want to play good in front of them," Boudreau said. "You see them at the rink every day, all saying how much it means to them. It's a reason to keep playing hard."

It doesn't hurt to have reigning NHL MVP and scoring champion Ovechkin, either, of course.

"Everything that's said about Alex -- I mean, until he writes a new chapter next game -- has been said," Boudreau said. "It's why he's the MVP and hopefully will be again."

Sunday's game was tied at 1 late in the second period, when the Maple Leafs gave away the puck. Ovechkin collected a pass from teammate Milan Jurcina near the blue line and, as a defenseman approached, flicked a blink-and-you-missed-it wrister past goalie Vesa Toskala.

"It came back to haunt us," Toronto coach Ron Wilson said. "When the best player in the league is on the ice -- or one of the best -- you can't mismanage the puck, and we did."

The Maple Leafs have lost three games in a row, getting outscored 16-4.

"We have to produce more goals," forward Nik Antropov said. "I don't think we're going to the net as hard as we can."


  • Niklas Hagman put Toronto ahead 1-0 in the first period with his ninth goal.
  • Gartner is the fourth Washington player to have his number retired. He ranks second in franchise history in goals (397), assists (392) and points.
  • Toronto D Pavel Kubina played in his 700th NHL game.
  • Leafs C Matt Stajan was scratched. He hurt his right eye when he was hit by a soccer ball while players warmed up before practice Saturday.
  • The Maple Leafs are the fourth team in a row to shut out the Capitals in the first period.
  • The Capitals assigned D Tyler Sloan to AHL affiliate Hershey. Defensemen Mike Green and Jeff Schultz returned to Washington's lineup after missing time with injuries.
  • Washington has won 10 of 12 overall.
Copyright 2018 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
Alexander Ovechkin scores two goals for the fourth time in the last eight games. (AP)
Alexander Ovechkin scores two goals for the fourth time in the last eight games. (AP)
Related Links
Toronto (14-16-6)1001
Washington  (23-11-3) «0224
Three Stars
B. Laich

Goals: 2
Assist(s): 0
A. Ovechkin

Goals: 2
Assist(s): 0
J. Theodore

Saves: 23
Save Pct.: .958

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Scoring Summary
14:23Niklas Hagman (11), Snap Shot. Assist: Grabovski, Frogren
12:54Power Play - Brooks Laich (9), Wrist Shot. Assist: Backstrom, Green
19:50Alex Ovechkin (24), Wrist Shot. Assist: Jurcina
15:43Brooks Laich (10), Wrist Shot, Unassisted.
19:26Alex Ovechkin (25), Empty Net. Assist: Backstrom, Green
Penalty Summary
14:37Stempniak, 2 min, Tripping
14:37Theodore, 2 min, Diving/Embellishment
06:39Green, 2 min, Interference
12:06Kubina, 2 min, Interference
18:02Clark, 2 min, Roughing
18:02Frogren, 2 min, Roughing
03:59Jurcina, 2 min, Hooking
10:35Collins, 2 min, Interference
10:35Deveaux, 2 min, Diving/Embellishment
Shots On Goal
Vesa Toskala59:23253
Jose Theodore60:00231
Power Play Conversions
Power Play
Game Information
Attendance - 18277
Referees - Kevin Pollock, Ian Walsh
Linesmen - Steve Barton, Mark Shewchyk
Other Games
Nash 2 Final
Edm 5
Ana 4 Final
StL 3
Ott 0 Final
Van 3
Bos 2 Final
Atl 1
Chi 4 Final
Min 1