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Leafs Get Pushed Over

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs

February 28, 2006

TORONTO (CP) -- The Toronto Maple Leafs couldn't recover from a bad start against the Washington Capitals.

Matt Pettinger scored twice as the Capitals beat the Leafs 5-3 on Tuesday.

Brian Willsie scored for Washington just 37 seconds into the first period. Alexander Ovechkin and Ben Clymer scored for the Capitals (20-32-5) in front of 19,449 at Air Canada Centre.

"Being scored on in the first minute of play in two periods is always a concern,'' said Maple Leafs coach Pat Quinn. "We have to take a look at ourselves very closely and start to put pressure on (ourselves).''

The Leafs fell three points behind the Montreal Canadiens for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

Nik Antropov, Darcy Tucker and Chad Kilger scored for Toronto (27-26-5), which lost its third straight game, dating back to before the Olympic break.

"I thought we beat ourselves tonight,'' said Maple Leafs captain Mats Sundin. "All five of their goals came when we had the puck and turned it over.''

Ovechkin's goal came with the Capitals on the power play after a late first period penalty to Toronto's Tie Domi. Leafs goalie Ed Belfour's clearing attempt was intercepted, and the ensuing shot was deflected off Ovechkin's left knee and into the net to give the Capitals a 3-2 lead.

The Capitals' fourth goal also was the result of a redirected shot. Toronto defenceman Alexander Khavanov tried to backhand the puck out from behind Belfour's net, but it bounced off Washington right winger Matt Bradley and directly to Clymer, who scored into a wide-open net.

"We obviously got a few lucky bounces,'' said Pettinger, whose team snapped a four-game losing skid. "Without those breaks, it's probably a whole different game.''

Capitals goalie Brent Johnson agreed.

"It's a nice surprise to have the bounces go our way,'' said Johnson, who made 27 saves for his fifth win of the year. "Belfour couldn't do much on a couple of the goals.''

However, Quinn wasn't ready to accept a few unfortunate bounces as a valid excuse for the Leafs' loss.

"It's not just bad breaks,'' he said. "At the end of the night, you know that a couple of things went against (you). But that's not the reason we lost the hockey game.

"We lost because we weren't doing the little things you have to do to be a winner.''

Toronto plays three games in the next seven days against division rivals in Buffalo, Ottawa and Montreal, forcing playoff-type pressure on the Maple Leafs.

"We've got to start playing playoff hockey now,'' Quinn said. "We can't wait until the playoffs, or we won't get there.''

With the win, Johnson improved his mark to 5-9-0. Belfour stopped 22 Washington shots in the loss, which dropped his record to 21-21-3.

NOTES: The Maple Leafs held a brief pre-game ceremony honouring the team's Olympic medallists, including gold medallists Mats Sundin and Mikael Tellqvist (Sweden) silver medallist Aki Berg (Finland) and bronze medallist Tomas Kaberle (Czech Republic). ...New Raptors president-GM Bryan Colangelo was in attendance at the game and got a nice ovation from the crowd when he was shown on the Jumbotron.

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