Maple Leafs Hammer Capitals, No New Injuries To Report!
The win improved the Buds overall record to 11-7-2 on the season, giving them sole possession of fifth spot in the Eastern Conference standings.
Oft-injured Tim Connolly scored his second of the season at 01:39 of the first period, giving the Maple Leafs the quick lead many suspected the team would need to compete with the offensively gifted Caps. Washington responded less than a minute later when Brooks Laich registered his third of the year at 02:30 of the first.
The Maple Leafs would go ahead for good when rookie forward Matt Frattin notched his first goal of the season at 19:16 of the first. Frattin has been one of the Maple Leafs hardest working forwards all season long—his first goal was well deserved, and hopefully a sign of things to come for the rookie.
The Blue and White blew the game open in the second period, hammering three power play markers past the Capitals, including one from Joffrey Lupul, who had four points on the night, earning him first star honors.
Defenseman Cody Franson also notched his first of the season when he slapped a power play marker past Capitals goaltender Michal Neuvirth (who had replaced fellow netminder Tomas Vokoun at 5:29 of the second period) at 19:29 of the second period.
With the score 6-1 after the second period the Buds played a safe third before former Capital David Steckel put the icing on the cake with his fourth of the season, making the final score 7-1, Toronto.
Toronto Goaltender Jonas Gustavsson responded to his critics with a 40-save effort for his first win since November 2nd and perhaps his best effort since his 28-save effort against the New York Rangers back on October 27th in which he made 28 saves.
Gustavsson’s win also marked the first time he had given up less than two goals in a game all season, bringing his record to 5-4-1 on the season and reducing his goals against average and save percentage to 3.46 and .892, respectively.
For the Capitals, the loss brought their overall record to 10-7-1—good enough for eighth overall in the Eastern Conference, but well below many experts expectations.
The Capitals are now 3-6-1 in their past ten, a slump that undoubtedly is not sitting well with their coach, Bruce Boudreau.
For his part, Capitals captain Alexander Ovechkin had eight shots on net, but he failed to impose his will on the Maple leafs and hardly looked like the dominating forward that had scored 14 goals in 12 career games against the Maple Leafs. Ovechkin now has no points in his past four games.
Speculation suggests that there are still hard feelings between Ovechkin and Boudreau stemming from an incident in which Boudreau benched Ovechkin against the Anaheim Ducks with the game on the line.
Ovechkin responded by calling Boudreau a “fat (expletive)”, which made headlines all around the globe.
While it is hard to confirm whether or not that incident has torn the two sides apart, it was clear on more than one occasion that Ovechkin was dogging it out on the ice, which is often an indication that the player doesn’t want to play for his coach.
Clearly, both Boudreau and Ovechkin need to put aside their feud if the Capitals are to have any success—a point not lost on the CBC game crew, many of whom pointed to the rift as a major reason the Capitals were struggling of late.
The Maple Leafs will now turn their sights on the Carolina Hurricanes for an early 5:00pm (EST) puck drop. The Canes are 6-11-3 on the season, leaving them 14th overall in the Eastern Conference standings.
The Hurricanes enter tonight’s tilt against the Maple Leafs marred in a 2-8-0 slide, losers of three games in a row, including a 4-0 loss to the Montreal Canadiens Wednesday night.
Carolina defenseman Joni Pitkanen has missed the past four games with a lower body injury and is expected to be out of the lineup against the Buds.
It will mark the first time Toronto plays against former Maple Leaf defenseman Tomas Kaberle in a Hurricanes uniform. Kaberle was traded to the Boston Bruins late last season which saw Toronto net promising forward Joe Colborne (who had an assist against the Capitals last night) as well as the Bruins’ first-round pick in 2011 and a conditional second-round draft pick in 2012.
Kaberle made the most of his opportunity with the Bruins, culminating in a Stanley Cup victory. With just four assists and a minus-7 rating through his first 20 games with the Hurricanes, this is easily Kaberle’s worst start to a season of his career.
Another former Maple Leaf, Jiri Tlusty, has just two goals and four assists for six points through 20 games. A favorite of former Maple Leafs head coach Paul Maurice (who now leads the Hurricanes), Tlusty continues to fall well short of the expectations that come with being selected in the first round (13th overall) by the Maple Leafs in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft.
For the record, Tlusty has just 19 goals and 44 points through 169 NHL games to go along with his paltry minus-18 rating.
Prediction: Despite an early start on Sunday the Maple Leafs will be looking for back-to-back victories against the Carolina Hurricanes.
Toronto should emerge with a ton of confidence after last night’s 7-1 victory over the Capitals. Combined with Carolina’s inability to score, Toronto stands a good chance of pulling off the victory.
Look for Toronto to bring a complete game against the Hurricanes, culminating in a hard fought 4-2 victory for the Blue and White.
Until next time,