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Toronto beaten by Capitals in Leafs' first game with Horachek at helm

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs

TORONTO (CP) - Marcus Johansson and Eric Fehr scored two goals apiece as the Washington Capitals, backed by a record-tying performance by Braden Holtby in goal, defeated Toronto 6-2 Wednesday night in the Maple Leafs' first game under interim coach Peter Horachek.

The contest, before 19,047 at the Air Canada Centre, came one day after the firing of Toronto head coach Randy Carlyle.

The Leafs started well but fell into some bad habits. Toronto also suffered from some poor finishing.

Brooks Laich and Alex Ovechkin, with an empty net goal, also scored for Washington (21-11-7), whose road record is an impressive 12-6-3 this season. It was Ovechkin's 20th goal of the season and 50th career point against Toronto.

The Caps extended their mastery over the Maple Leafs to 11-4-2 in the last 17 games between the two.

Holtby's 22nd straight start tied Wayne Stephenson's club record as Washington, 7-1-2 in its last 10 games, won its third in a row.

Daniel Winnik and Trevor Smith scored for Toronto (21-17-3), which has lost three straight and is 2-8-0 in its last 10.

It was the Leafs' first home game since Dec. 20, returning from a 2-5 road trip forced by the world junior hockey championship.

Horachek, a former assistant to Washington coach Barry Trotz in Nashville, moved Leafs sniper Phil Kessel and others around, mixing his lines. Kessel was kept in check by the Caps, however.

Kessel found himself in the spotlight in the wake of Carlyle's firing, not surprisingly objecting to being labelled as uncoachable.

Washington led 1-0 despite being outshot 7-4 in the first period. They added three more in a more open second period that saw five goals in all. The Caps outshot the Leafs 14-12 in the period.

Washington scored on its first shot at 5:10 of the first period, a rapid-fire wrist shot from Johansson that beat Jonathan Bernier high to the glove side after a nifty feed from Evgeny Kuznetsov, who rounded defenceman Jake Gardiner and the back of the net before finding his teammate. Johansson eluded Richard Panik on the play.

Defenceman Roman Polak took a puck to the face midway through the period, leaving a pool of blood on the ice and forcing the Leafs to rotate through five blue-liners until he returned late in the second period sporting stitches and a swollen face.

Holtby had to be sharp after a Washington giveaway, making two stops including a desperate lunge to stop Winnik from in close and a Gardiner shot through traffic.

Holtby rose to the occasion again early in the second period, stopping Sam Carrick from point-blank range. But finally Winnik beat him, tipping in a Cody Franson blast from the blue-line at 4:49.

The period began to open up, with the Caps peppering Bernier with shots.

The two captains got in it after Toronto's Dion Phaneuf gave Ovechkin a love-tap with his stick. The Caps star retaliated with several cross-checks, knocking Phaneuf off his feet.

Fehr made it 2-1 shorthanded at 6:20 after a fine rush and feed by Jay Beagle. Morgan Rielly went to the bench as the puck went past him on a poor line change. Laich increased the lead to 3-1 at 8:58 after the Leafs lost a faceoff and Laich's wrist shot deflected in off Franson's stick for his fifth of the season.

Smith closed the gap with his first of the season at 16:08, stuffing in a rebound of a Leo Komarov shot with Polak getting an assist.

Johansson restored the two-goal lead with a wrist shot 42 seconds later for his 12th of the season.

Toronto thought it had scored early in the third via Mike Santorelli but his shot hit the post and a Capital and came out.

Fehr padded the lead with a slap shot that seemed to deflect slightly off Gardiner's stick at 11:20 of the third after a Leaf penalty expired. It was his 13th goal of the season.

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