Leafs rally in third to edge Capitals for first home win
TORONTO - Nikolai Kulemin and Matt Frattin scored third-period goals to give the Toronto Maple Leafs their first home win of the season in a 3-2 comeback victory over the Washington Capitals in NHL play Thursday night.
Kulemin tied it at 2-2 at 7:40 of the third period, poking in a puck that squeezed through Michal Neuvirth's legs from a Michael Kostka shot from the point. As the Caps 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 off a nice passing play with Nazem Kadri at 9:53 of the third by tapping in the puck for his fourth goal — and sixth point — in four games.
The Leafs lived dangerously in the final minutes, with the Caps pressing.
James van Riemsdyk also scored for Toronto (4-3-0), which outshot Washington 40-22. The Leafs had their chances to take control earlier in the game, but lack of clinical finishing and 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 one-for-eight with the man-advantage. There were no penalties in the third period.
Alex Ovechkin doubled his goal output on the season via the power play at 2:38 of in 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 (1-5-1), which has yet to win on the road. Mike Ribeiro had two assists, upping his scoring total to one goal and seven assists.
Prior to the game, Ward noted via Twitter that baseball icon Jackie Robinson would have been 94 on the day.
"Hope I represent the number well! #42," tweeted Ward, who wears the number in Robinson's honour.
The Caps went ahead within the first two minutes of the game but then were assessed five straight penalties in the next nine 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 only having 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 Caps star did not manage a shot on goal in the first period.
Leafs 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 as a Maple Leaf.
His drought continued in the first period as Neuvirth stoned him from in close during a four-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 of goal 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 better on the night, also stopped van Riemsdyk on a late breakaway.
Clarke MacArthur (finger), Mike Komisarek (eye) and Mike Brown (shoulder) sat out for the Leafs.
The best line of the night may have come from the Timbits MVP from the first intermission game. Asked what he ate before games, the helmet-clad munchkin said light food so he didn't throw up on the ice.
NOTES — Toronto claimed six-foot-five 230-pound forward Frazer McLaren off waivers from the San Jose Sharks earlier Thursday. The Leafs also called up Marlies captain Ryan Hamilton and placed Mike Brown on injured reserve after he injured 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.