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Maple Leafs beat Capitals 3-2 for first home win


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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Caps' failed second period power play proves key in loss to Rangers

Caps' failed second period power play proves key in loss to Rangers

On Saturday against the New York Rangers, the Washington Capitals looked to be in complete control. At the end of the first period, the Caps held a 2-0 lead. The Rangers scored early in the second, but then Mika Zibanejad took a double-minor as he hit T.J. Oshie in the face with a high-stick. In a game in which the Caps had dominated, they had a chance to put the Rangers away.

Then things took a turn.

The Caps failed to score despite having four straight minutes of power play time. The Rangers took the momentum and rattled off two more goals to take a 3-2 lead in the second.

A game in which the Caps were in complete control of had suddenly gotten away from them.

"I think we scored first two goals and I think we felt like it's going to be over," Alex Ovechkin said. "Five-on-four, four minutes I think we have only one chance when [Matt Niskanen] shot a puck and after that we was so casual. We couldn't stay in their zone so obviously it's blame on us and can't paly like that."

RELATED: Ovechkin beats Staal on the deke and Lundqvist on the shot

To make matters worse, this was the second game in a row in which the team struggled in the middle frame.

On Thursday, the Caps took a 2-1 lead into the second period against the Florida Panthers, but were outshot 14-4 in that period and gave up the game-tying goal. Washington again struggled in the second period on Saturday. They gave up only five shots, but it yielded the Rangers three goals.

"They definitely scored on the opportunities they got," Lars Eller said. "They didn't give up."

"They came at us a little bit in the second, but wasn't a lot of shots, wasn't a lot of chances," Trotz said. "But all their chances went in. That's just the way it goes sometimes."

Against Florida, there was no single moment that seemed to turn the tide in the Panthers' favor. On Saturday, it was very clear just when the Rangers took over the game.

"They got a little momentum off that power play," Trotz said, "Our own power play they got a little momentum because you get those on your bench, you get a four minute, you want to get something out of it at least and you get right back in the driver's seat if you get one there. They dug in and sort of built a little momentum from that."

The good news is that it is still early in the season. The Caps are only 3-1-1 and will not play many teams that can turn five second-period shots into a complete turnaround.

But the Caps recognized slow starts as a problem from last season and they made a point of correcting it. In five games this season, Washington has scored first in each of their games. Now a similar focus may be needed in order to turn around what is becoming a growing concern in the second period: Weak play in the second period.

"Our first periods have been good, that's something we wanted to correct," Trotz said. "Now our second period, we're going to need to correct that."

MORE CAPITALS: Deflection gives Eller his first goal as a Cap

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Rangers hand Caps first regulation loss of the season

Rangers hand Caps first regulation loss of the season

The Caps fell for the first time in regulation this season, losing 4-2 to the New York Rangers on Saturday.

How it happened: The Capitals jumped out to a 2-0 lead, but the Rangers were able to respond with four unanswered goals including two by rookie Jimmy Vesey. The turning point came in the second period when Washington failed to score on a double-minor assessed to Mika Zibanejad after he caught T.J. Oshie with a high-stick. The Caps were winning 2-1 at the time of the penalty. By the end of the period, they trailed 3-2.

What it means: The loss is the Capitals' first regulation loss of the season. Despite the impressive 3-1-1 start, the Caps have now gone 1-1-1 against Metropolitan Division foes.

A tale of two periods: Coming into Saturday's game, the Capitals had scored first in each of their four contests this season. Saturday proved no different as the Caps jumped out to a 2-0 lead despite being outshot in the first period 13-10. In the second period, the Caps clamped down on the shots allowing only five...but the Rangers scored on three of those shots to take the 3-2 lead.


A star in the making: Vesey made headlines in the summer by not signing with the Nashville Predators, the team that drafted him, electing instead to wait until he became a free agent. The list of teams interested in signing the Hobey Baker winner as the top player in the college ranks was a long one. On Saturday, Vesey showed why with two goals. His first goal was a simple tap-in thanks to a great pass by Rick Nash. His second goal, however, came on a strong drive to the net, physically keeping Karl Alzner off the puck while neatly tucking the puck between the five-hole of Braden Holtby. That was a goal-scorer's goal and certainly did not look like a young rookie straight out of college.

A disturbing trend: For the second time in as many games, the Capitals jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first period only to watch that lead evaporate. On Thursday against the Florida Panthers, the Caps held a 2-1 lead at the end of the first period. They then were out-shot 14-4 in the second allowing the Panthers to tie the game at 2. On Saturday, Washington again jumped out to a 2-0 lead only to see the Rangers tie it in the second period. This time, however, Washington was not able to recover and ended up taking the loss.

First of many? The third line looked like it was starting to gel in Thursday’s game against the Florida Panthers and that continued on Saturday as Lars Eller recorded his first goal as a Cap. Brooks Orpik held the puck near the blue line and wristed a hopeful shot. Eller stood in the high-slot and got his stick down to deflect into the back of the net.

Favorite target: There's just something about the New York Rangers. With his first period goal, Ovehckin has now scored a goal in 10 of his last 11 games against the Blueshirts. In addition, Ovechkin has scored more goals (21) against Rangers netminder Henrik Lundqvist than against any other goalie in his career.

Look ahead: Time for the Caps to pack their bags as they skip town for a four-game road trip that will take them across western Canada, their second-longest road trip of the season. Their first game comes on Wednesday against Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers. The Caps will not return to Verizon Center until Nov. 3 when they host the Winnipeg Jets.