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The Washington Capitals have been a mediocre offensive club in March, and a near shutout loss against the Toronto Maple Leafs exemplified that.
Then again, Alex Ovechkin didn't play in that game.
The Capitals will have Ovechkin in the lineup Tuesday night in Toronto, though, where they'll hope the NHL's leading goal scorer can take advantage of the defensively-challenged Maple Leafs.
Washington (45-23-6) was the Eastern Conference's second-highest scoring team at the beginning of March, putting up 3.30 goals per game through the first three-quarters of the season. In 11 games this month, however, the Capitals have averaged 2.36 goals to rank second-to-last in the East.
Ovechkin, who has a league-high 50 goals, certainly hasn't been void of blame. He scored 0.74 goals per game from October through February, but has averaged just 0.50 goals this month.
Ovechkin managed only an assist on Saturday at Carolina, where he mustered seven shots on Cam Ward but couldn't get one past him in a 4-1 loss.
"We were really good in the first and then we started to turn the puck over in the second and third," Caps coach Bruce Boudreau said. "We made a couple of mistakes."
Washington couldn't get anything going offensively the last time it faced the Maple Leafs (30-30-13), getting blanked until Alexander Semin scored with 39 seconds left in a 2-1 loss on March 5 at the Verizon Center. The Capitals, though, were without Ovechkin, who was nursing a bruised heel.
That was only the sixth time this season Toronto limited its opponent to one goal - it's yet to record a shutout - but perhaps the Capitals will fare better with Ovechkin healthy. He's scored six goals in his last six games against the Maple Leafs, who allow an NHL-high 3.42 per game.
Toronto has been shoring up its defense somewhat in March, however, yielding three goals per game. The Leafs were better than that their last time out, holding down Montreal while getting two goals and two assists from Alexei Ponikarovsky in a 5-2 road victory on Saturday.
"The whole line was awesome tonight - skating, shooting, passing, doing everything that they can do - and it was great to see," said Blake, who scored his third goal in four games.
The Leafs have defended Washington well this season, allowing seven goals in three games - two to Ovechkin - but it's been their lack of offense that's resulted in them dropping two of those. Toronto scored just once apiece in a pair of losses to the Caps in December, including 2-1 on Dec. 6 at Air Canada Centre.
Blake, the Leafs' leading scorer, hasn't recorded a point in his last six games against Washington.
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