TORONTO - Sporting a new mask and an aura of confidence that has become his trademark, Tom Barrasso looked like he was headed for a win in his Toronto Maple Leafs debut. That is until Jaromir Jagr decided to ruin his former teammate's party.
Jagr beat the man who helped him win two Stanley Cups in Pittsburgh with two goals and added two assists as the desperate Washington Capitals beat the Leafs, 4-3, in a wild affair Thursday night at Air Canada Centre. Toronto had its unbeaten streak snapped at six games, nine at home.
Barrasso deserved a better fate on this night stopping 27 shots, many on odd-man rushes, as the Leafs wilted in the last two periods after jumping out to an early 2-0 lead.
"I'm just glad this game is over," said Barrasso, who was quite nervous at the thought of his first start in Hogtown. "The anxiety of today was tremendous. It would have been nice to win but I don't think I've won in any of my first games with any team."
The Leafs dominated the first period but turnovers marred their play as the night progressed. Toronto has been sinking into bad habits the last couple games and not taking care of Jagr was too much to overcome.
Jagr's second period tally began the momentum shift. He beat Barrasso through a screen on a turn-around wrist shot from the high slot. The typical Jagr move made it 2-1
Washington continued its improved play in the third as did its $11-million man. He set up the game-tying goal and scored the go-ahead goal with a smooth little wrist shot from inside the right faceoff circle.
Gary Roberts made things interesting two minutes later, scoring his second of the game, to make it 3-3.
Darcy Tucker lit a fire under both teams later in the third when he hammered Sergei Gonchar with probably the hardest hit thrown by a Maple Leaf this season. Gonchar was helped from the ice and didn't return.
A small melee followed which resulted in coincidental minor penalties. The Capitals players and coaching staff were screaming at referee Dave Jackson, claiming Tucker left his feet.
"It looked like a good hit and obviously the referees felt the same way," Coach Pat Quinn said.
Defenceman Jean-Francois Fortin hit Roberts from the side and behind a few minutes later at the Leafs' bench. Another shoving match ensued resulting in more four-on-four action.
"I've already had my career ended once from too many hits from behind so I'm a little sensitive about hits like that," Roberts said. "(Getting the penalties) probably wasn't the smartest move with the night Jagr was having."
The rugged forward was right in hindsight because Jagr set up the game-winner on another 2-on-1. Jagr felt bad about beating Barrasso in his first game, but not too bad.
"He's going to have a lot of good games. He's a good goalie," Jagr said. "I wish he could win but at the same time we need them."
Coach Pat Quinn was happy with his acquisition's performance.
"He made some real good stops and when we started to get sloppy he was real good, we just didn't support him. We must have given up 15 or 16 out-manned rushes," Quinn said.
NOTES: Pat Quinn and Daniele Sauvageau were honoured before the game for their coaching contributions to Team Canada's gold medals in men's and women's Olympic hockey ... Alexander Mogilny, in his fourth game back since injuring his back, had a host of chances. He set up a power-play goal in the first before hitting the post in the second period on a 2-on-1 break. His real highlights came while handling the puck along the sideboards and on the rush ... Travis Green extended his point streak to four games picking up an assist.