Comeback Falls Short
The Canadian Press
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After travelling across the continent to play for the fourth time in six days, the Toronto Maple Leafs were already facing a pretty stiff challenge.
When they lost two of their best players early in the second period, it was simply too much to overcome.
Milan Jurcina's third-period goal stood up as the winner on Saturday as the Washington Capitals beat the sluggish Maple Leafs 2-1.
Toronto lost defenceman Luke Schenn
and winger Niklas Hagman to injuries before the game was even half over. The short bench was especially tough to manage since the team spent Friday travelling back from the West Coast and has endured a heavy schedule of games recently.
``Luke logs a lot of minutes and so does Haggy,'' said coach Ron Wilson. ``We had to go to Plan B and C. ...
``You're a little tired and you want to play almost four lines and certainly six defencemen. We couldn't do that.''
The coach said that Schenn will be out at least two weeks with the lower-body injury he suffered after getting hit by Alex Ovechkin early in the second period. The prognosis was better for Hagman, who took a knee in the head and was feeling a bit groggy. He's considered day to day.
Wilson was unhappy with his team's recent three-game road trip and had them skate in Phoenix early Friday morning before flying home. Not surprisingly, they appeared weary and managed just 20 shots on goal - their second-lowest total of the season.
``We were having trouble concentrating on where to go,'' said Wilson. ``For example, our (defencemen) moving the puck quickly - we were like a beat slow on the metronome tonight.''
The Capitals were able to capitalize and registered their first road victory since Nov. 19.
Washington has been dealing with several injuries of its own and suffered another one when Eric Fehr left early against the Leafs. Even still, coach Bruce Boudreau knew this was a game his team had to have.
``I thought they were a tired team,'' said Boudreau. ``I was really surprised they came on as much in the third. I thought if we could have of got that two-goal lead, they might have folded.
``But they don't quit. They've got a lot of heart.''
Added Ovechkin: ``It's a huge win. I think today was kind of a boring game, not lots of chances for goals, but the most important thing is we took two points.''
Karl Alzner also scored for Washington (15-9-3) while Nik Antropov replied for the Maple Leafs (9-12-6).
Ovechkin has dominated the Leafs with 11 goals in 13 games against them during his career, but wasn't able to add to that total. He had a couple really good chances and was robbed by Vesa Toskala late in the second period when he broke free of defenceman Jeff Finger
and nearly scored while lying on his stomach.
He also had a shot go off the post in the third period.
``It's scary,'' Toskala said of Ovechkin. ``He can make goalies look bad.''
Alzner got Washington on the scoreboard with the first goal of his NHL career. Ovechkin was providing a screen when the 20-year-old defenceman floated the puck by Toskala at 1:41 of the second period.
Even though the Leafs were only trailing by a goal after 40 minutes, the deficit felt bigger because they weren't creating many scoring chances. Toronto had directed just 12 shots at Brent Johnson by that point.
``I don't know if the intensity was there like we want,'' said Finger. ``Obviously it was a 2-1 game, we were in it the whole time. But I think we have a lot more to give.''
The Leafs generated a few good chances in the third period, especially when Ovechkin took successive penalties.
Antropov finally broke through on the second of those power plays. The Leafs winger scored his 10th goal of the season at 6:12 when he beat Johnson with a wrist shot not long after the Caps goalie looked like he might have injured himself making a toe save.
Johnson stayed in the game and watched Jurcina score the eventual winner just one minute after Antropov had tied it. Jurcina's blast from the point found its way through a crowd and behind Toskala.
The Maple Leafs pressed for the equalizer late in the game, but weren't able to come up with another comeback. They've now won just four times in 13 home games this season.
Even though the Toronto players expected the game to be a tough one, they were still pretty disappointed with the result.
``This is the toughest game after the road trip, after the time changes,'' said Toskala. ``We had a long travelling day. The legs were a little heavy in the first (period).
``But it's the same for everybody. Every team is playing a lot of games. We can't really use that as an excuse.''
Announced attendance was 19,416 ... After going 17 games without being outshot, the Leafs have been outshot in five of six games ... Mike Green (shoulder), Sergei Fedorov (ankle), Tom Poti (groin), Alexander Semin (torso), Brian Pothier (concussion), Chris Clark (forearm), Jeff Schultz (finger) and John Erskine (concussion) sat out for the banged-up Caps ... Toronto was without Jamal Mayers (hand), Jonas Frogren (arm) and Mike Van Ryn
(hand) ... Washington's top six scorers are all 25 or younger ... Cliff Fletcher, now a consultant with the Leafs, attended his first home game since Brian Burke was hired as general manager.
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