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Maple Leafs beat Capitals 3-2 for first home win

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Maple Leafs beat Capitals 3-2 for first home win

TORONTO (AP) Nikolai Kulemin and Matt Frattin scored third-period goals to give the Toronto Maple Leafs their first home win of the season with a 3-2 comeback victory over the struggling Washington Capitals on Thursday night.

Kulemin tied it 2-all at 7:40 of the third, poking in a puck that squeezed through Michal Neuvirth's legs following Michael Kostka's shot from the point. As the Washington goalie tried in vain to squeeze his pads, Kulemin reached behind and nudged the puck in for his first of the year.

Frattin made it 3-2, capping a nice passing play with Nazem Kadri at 9:53 by tapping in the puck for his fourth goal - and sixth point - in four games.

The Maple Leafs lived dangerously in the final minutes as the Capitals (1-5-1) pressed for a tying goal that never came.

James van Riemsdyk also scored for Toronto (4-3-0), which outshot Washington 40-22. The Maple Leafs had their chances to take control earlier in the game, but a lack of clinical finishing and a failure to convert numerous power-play opportunities frustrated them before 19,374 at the Air Canada Centre.

Toronto, which came into the game ranked 20th on the power play, went 1 for 8 with the man-advantage. There were no penalties in the third period.

Alex Ovechkin doubled his goal output on the season when he scored on the power play at 2:38 of the second period, drilling a low wrist shot through James Reimer from just outside the faceoff circle for a 2-1 lead.

Joel Ward opened the scoring for Washington, which has yet to win on the road. Mike Ribeiro had two assists, upping his scoring total to one goal and seven assists.

Before the game, Ward noted on Twitter that baseball icon Jackie Robinson would have turned 94 on Thursday.

``Hope I represent the number well! 42,'' tweeted Ward, who wears the number in Robinson's honor.

The Capitals went ahead within the first 2 minutes of the game but then were assessed five straight penalties in the next 9 minutes and were outshot 15-7 in the first period. Toronto was on the power play for 6:11 of the first 20 minutes, managing to take advantage once.

Thanks to Ovechkin, the Caps led 2-1 midway through the game despite having only 10 shots.

The Leafs were coming off a 4-3 overtime win in Buffalo on Tuesday. Washington lost 3-2 in Ottawa the same night, giving up a 2-0 lead and conceding the winning goal on the power play with 2:30 remaining.

Going into the game, both teams had snipers stuck in neutral.

Ovechkin, who arrived with one goal and one assist, hasn't had an even-strength goal in his last 10 games, dating back to the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs.

The Leafs showed him little respect, with captain Dion Phaneuf bowling him over in the Washington crease in the first period. The Capitals star did not manage a shot on goal in the first period.

Toronto sniper Phil Kessel, meanwhile, entered the game goalless with three assists in his first six games - failing to score on 27 shots in his bid for his 100th goal with the Maple Leafs.

His drought continued in the first period as Neuvirth stoned him from in close during a 4-minute power play with Jason Chimera off for hooking and unsportsmanlike conduct.

But a Kessel shot on the extended power play led to van Riemsdyk's goal as the big forward, stationed in front like a lamppost, tucked in the rebound for his fourth of the season at 8:19.

The Caps had jumped into the lead at 1:36 when Ribeiro, angling the puck from behind the goal, threaded a pass through several Toronto defenders to an unmarked Ward who fired it in.

Kessel, who had five shots in the first 40 minutes, was somehow denied by Neuvirth midway through the second when he tucked a shot between his legs from in-close. Neuvirth did it again with a glove save in the third.

Neuvirth, who deserved a better result, also stopped van Riemsdyk on a late breakaway.

Clarke MacArthur (finger), Mike Komisarek (eye) and Mike Brown (shoulder) sat out for the Leafs.

NOTES: Toronto claimed 6-foot-5, 230-pound forward Frazer McLaren off waivers from San Jose. The Maple Leafs also called up Marlies captain Ryan Hamilton and placed Mike Brown on injured reserve after he hurt his shoulder in a fight Tuesday. ... Washington forward Brooks Laich, recovering from a groin injury sustained playing in Europe during the lockout, took part in the morning skate for the first time this season. ... Toronto's homestand continues Saturday against Boston and Monday against Carolina.

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Holtby gets new Canadian mask for World Cup

Holtby gets new Canadian mask for World Cup

Braden Holtby will represent Canada for the first time in a major tournament this September in the World Cup of Hockey. To help him look the part, Holtby will be waering a new Canadian goalie mask.

Fans were treated to their first look at Holtby's Team Canada mask on Tuesday as the Capitals Twitter account posted pictures. The maple leaf is featured prominently as one would expect.

On the chin there is the No. 70, which of course is his jersey number for the Caps. Holtby also gives a shotout to the Caps on the left side of the mask.

Props to the Russina Machine Never Breaks crew for spotting that.

Team Canada will begin practice on Sept. 5 in Ontario. Their first game of the tournament will be on Sept. 17 against the Czech Republic.

RELATED: CAPS' HOLTBY BEGINS RAMPING UP FOR WORLD CUP

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Capitals' John Carlson says surgically repaired ankle feels 'perfect'

Capitals' John Carlson says surgically repaired ankle feels 'perfect'

With the World Cup of Hockey set to begin in a few weeks and the start of the NHL’s regular season not far behind that, John Carlson has a lot on his mind these days.

Something the Capitals defenseman no longer thinks about, though, is the broken ankle that required surgery in late February.

“I hurt it, took some time off, tried to come back, it felt good, and then it kind of deteriorated,” Carlson said recently.  

“At that time,” he continued, “we just felt the only option was to get surgery and put some screws in it to basically bulletproof it, make sure that I was back in time for the playoffs and that we were not ever going to have an issue with it again.”

After missing a total of 25 regular season games, Carlson returned to form in the playoffs, racking up five goals and 12 points while averaging 26:54 of ice time against the Flyers and Penguins.

The ankle hasn’t bothered him since, the 26-year-old said, and he doesn’t anticipate that he'll need to have the screws removed. 

“Only if it’s really, really bugging me, and it’s not,” Carlson said of the hardware used to repair the fracture. “It’s perfect, has been the whole summer. It’s good.”

These days, Carlson is skating and working out daily at Kettler Capitals Iceplex as he ramps up for the World Cup in Toronto, where he’ll represent Team USA and join eight fellow Capitals who are also participating in the eight-team tournament. The teams will convene for practice on Sept. 5 and the preliminary games begin Sept. 17 at Air Canada Centre.         

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2016-17 NHL Season Preview: Carolina Hurricanes

2016-17 NHL Season Preview: Carolina Hurricanes

It still feels like the season just ended, but with the draft and free agency already behind us, it's time to look forward to the 2016-17 season. We will preview every team in the NHL throughout August and take a look at what the new season may hold.

Team: Carolina Hurricanes

How they did last season: 35-31-16 (86 points), 6th in the Metropolitan, 10th in the Eastern Conference. Did not make the playoffs.

Notable acquisitions: LW Viktor Stalberg, RW Lee Stempniak, LW Teuvo Teravainen, LW Bryan Bickell

Notable departures: LW Nathan Gerbe

When they will play the Caps: Nov. 12 in Carolina; Dec. 16 in Carolina; Jan. 23 in Washington; Feb. 7 in Washington

RELATED: CAPS' HOLTBY BEGINS RAMPING UP FOR WORLD CUP

Analysis: The Carolina Hurricanes will try to take the next step in their rebuild this season by breaking into the playoffs, but they have some tough questions they have to answer first.

Despite having plenty of talent on defense with players like Noah Hanifin and Justin Faulk, the biggest concern for Carolina is in net where the Hurricanes return the Cam Ward and Eddie Lack combo that struggled so much last season. Ward managed only a .909 save percentage and 2.41 goals against average (GAA). Lack was actually worse with a .901 save percentage and 2.81 GAA. Despite the tough season, Carolina elected to re-sign Ward to a two-year deal, most likely due to a misguided sense of loyalty. Sure, he was the MVP in their Stanley Cup season, but those days are long behind him.

The goaltending has to be better or the Hurricanes are going nowhere.

Carolina also needs to start getting the puck in the net. The Hurricanes were 27th in the NHL in scoring in each of the past two seasons. Carolina lacks a superstar forward like a Connor McDavid or an Alex Ovechkin, but there is still plenty of talent capable of taking the next step. Jeff Skinner led the team with 51 points last season and is only 24. Victor Rask also looks poised for a good season after scoring 48 points. The Hurricanes added Teuvo Teravainen and Lee Stempniak in addition over the offseason to further boost the offense.

And everything is tied together by head coach Bill Peters who appears to be a real steal as head coach.

When Team Canada announced their coaching staff for the World Cup of Hockey, one coach seemingly stood out from the others. Joining Mike Babcock’s staff of Joel Quenneville, Claude Julien and Barry Trotz was Peters. At the time, I thought Peters’ addition was curious considering the others on the staff, but he certainly has proved himself during his time in Carolina.

Considering the roster the Hurricanes took into the 2015-16 season and the scoring and goaltending struggles they had, the fact that Carolina was in the mix for the playoffs fat all speaks to the strength of Peters as a coach.

The Hurricanes are in good hands with Peters at the helm.

Season prediction: Considering what Carolina was able to do last season with obvious flaws and a young team, the playoffs are not entirely out of the question for this season.

It may be tempting fate to say this, but the goaltending can’t possibly be any worse and if it is, that will force the team into making some kind of move to bring in another goalie.

Another year for the young core on offense should do wonders and I like the additions the team made in the offseason. Peters has established himself as a good coach and he has the Hurricanes moving in the right direction. The only problem is the division.

Carolina finished behind Washington, Pittsburgh, the New York Rangers, the New York Islanders and Philadelphia in the division. How many of those teams can Carolina jump in the standings this season? I see one, maybe two teams, but that’s about it (you’ll have to wait until later in the week for previews on the rest of those teams to see who we think will take a step back).

Still, a wild card spot is not out of the question and it would come probably a year before anyone really anticipated this team had a shot at reaching the postseason.

MORE HOCKEY: DIPAULI LIKED THE 'FIT' IN PITTSBURGH BETTER

2016-2017 NHL TEAM PREVIEWS

Pacific Division
— Anaheim Ducks
— Arizona Coyotes
— Calgary Flames
— Edmonton Oilers
— Los Angeles Kings
— San Jose Sharks
— Vancouver Canucks

Central Division
— Chicago Blackhawks
— Colorado Avalanche
— Dallas Stars
— Minnesota Wild
— Nashville Predators
— St. Louis Blues
— Winnipeg Jets

Atlantic Division
— Boston Bruins
— Buffalo Sabres
— Detroit Red Wings
— Florida Panthers
— Montreal Canadiens
— Ottawa Senators
Tampa Bay Lightning
Toronto Maple Leafs

Metropolitan Division
— Columbus Blue Jackets (coming Aug. 24)
— New Jersey Devils (coming Aug. 25)
— New York Islanders (coming Aug. 26)
— New York Rangers (coming Aug. 27)
— Philadelphia Flyers (coming Aug. 28)
— Pittsburgh Penguins (coming Aug. 29)
— Washington Capitals (coming Aug. 30)