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After winning their first game with a new general manager, the Maple Leafs look to continue their recent surge when they visit the Washington Capitals in the finale of a home-and-home series prior to the All-Star break on Thursday night.
Now only five points out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, Toronto (20-22-8) beat Washington 3-2 at home on Wednesday night for its fourth win in five games. It was the Maple Leafs' first game since the team fired general manager John Ferguson on Tuesday and replaced him with Cliff Fletcher on an interim basis.
"It was good to get a win in his first game," said goalie Vesa Toskala, who made 30 saves to earn his fourth straight win. "It was a huge two points for us."
Mats Sundin scored with 29.2 seconds left in the third period and added an assist, while Alexander Steen also had a goal and an assist as Toronto evened the season series at one game apiece with the Capitals (22-22-5), who had their four-game winning streak snapped.
"With everything that's happened, we all feel pressure to win," said Sundin, whose 93rd game-winning goal also tied him with Maurice Richard for 24th on the career list with 544 total goals. "Everybody feels it's time to pull up the socks.
"We really kept building on some of the good things we've been doing. We've been playing better defensively and giving ourselves a chance to win."
Sundin has recorded at least one point in his last three games versus Washington.
Toronto has allowed more than two goals only twice in the five games, after giving up an average of 4.4 during a five-game losing streak.
"There was a lot of talk surrounding the team the last six weeks and we've tried to keep our focus," said Toronto's Chad Kilger, who also had a goal Wednesday. "We know we have a good team. We just have to prove it."
For the Maple Leafs to continue to do so, they must play better on the road, where they are 9-14-3 and have lost 10 of their last 12. Toronto has also lost three of its last four visits to Washington, although this is its first visit there this season.
Wednesday's loss was just the fourth in the last 13 games for Washington, which is three spots - but only one point - ahead of Toronto in the East.
"We didn't give up, but we didn't play our best hockey," Washington defenseman Tom Poti said.
Alexander Ovechkin scored his league-leading 39th goal and Alexander Semin also had a goal for the Capitals, who will try for their fourth consecutive win at home.
Ovechkin, who has 11 points in his last six games, looks to record a goal in his seventh straight contest. He has 10 goals in 10 career games versus Toronto.
Washington's Olaf Kolzig made 21 saves Wednesday, but had his four-game winning streak against Toronto snapped.