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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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Karl Alzner is not ready to return form injury as the second round begins

Karl Alzner is not ready to return form injury as the second round begins

Karl Alzner has been ruled out for Game 1 of the Capitals’ second round matchup against the Penguins on Thursday night.

Although the veteran defenseman has been ramping up his workload in recent days, Washington will ice the same lineup it used in the series clinching win over Toronto, Coach Barry Trotz confirmed after the pregame skate in Arlington.

Alzner has been sidelined since Game 2 of the Maple Leafs series with an upper body.

Trotz indicated that Alzner has not received medical clearance to return to game action.

“We’re not going to put him at risk,” Trotz said. “He’s day-to-day.”

Nate Schmidt, who owns a team-best plus-5 rating in the playoffs, will again replace Alzner in the Capitals’ lineup as hockey's most anticipated matchup of the postseason opens at Verizon Center.

RELATED: Caps get the rematch they were hoping for

Check out the latest edition of the Capitals Faceoff Podcast and subscribe on Apple podcastsAudioboom and Google Play!

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Caps get the rematch they were hoping for

Caps get the rematch they were hoping for

Last season left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth in Washington. The Caps dominated the regular season, wrapping up the Presidents’ Trophy for the top record in the NHL by late March with seven games still remaining.

And yet, once again, Washington’s regular season success did not translate to the playoffs. The Caps met the Pittsburgh Penguins in the second round and were eliminated in six games.

RELATED: Why Eller may be the key to beating the Penguins

Now, however, Washington will get a chance to erase the sting of last year’s loss in a second-round rematch with the Penguins.

“We were disappointed last year,” Nicklas Backstrom said. “First thing that you thought was about coming back and playing them again and here we are. Maybe not a surprise, but it's going to be a good match up. They're a good team, they're the Stanley Cup champs so it will be a really good match and we're excited about it.”

“Pittsburgh's a rivalry team, knocked us out last year,” T.J. Oshie said. “You don't need much more motivation to get started here.”

In the team’s 41 seasons, Washington has advanced past the second round of the postseason only twice and have failed to do so in the Alex Ovechkin era. Much of their playoff troubles have come at the hands of the same team they now prepare to face.

In the franchise’s 27 playoff appearances, this will be the 10th time Washington and Pittsburgh have met. Washington has gone only 1-8 in their previous nine meetings.

For a team looking to overcome its previous playoff history, it seems almost necessary to have to go through Pittsburgh.

“There's a history with the Penguins,” head coach Barry Trotz said. “I think it's fitting that we have to go through the Penguins at some point. Got to change the narrative hopefully this year and that's what we intend to do.”

MORE CAPITALS: Trotz calls Hornqvist a guy who 'conveniently will fall on your goalie'

Check out the latest edition of the Capitals Faceoff Podcast and subscribe on Apple podcastsAudioboom and Google Play!