The Washington Capitals
are starting to look like a playoff team.
made 23 saves for his third shutout of the season, and Brooks Laich
and Matthieu Perreault scored as the Caps carried over the momentum from Saturday's win at Boston with a 2-0 victory against the Toronto Maple Leafs
at the Verizon Center on Sunday.
Washington has now won three in a row and has moved four points ahead of Buffalo and Winnipeg in the Eastern Conference playoff race. The Caps also remained just one point behind Florida for the Southeast Division lead as the Panthers beat Carolina at the BankAtlantic Center.
"It's always nice when you're back-and-forth, back-and-forth, and you're still in it," Alex Ovechkin
said. "It's nice when you know, like, the season's not over."
made 21 saves for the Maple Leafs, who have lost four straight and 10 of 11. They trail the Capitals by eight points. Toronto was shut out in both of its weekend games, losing 1-0 after a shootout at home to Philadelphia on Saturday night.
"Are we sacrificing risk hockey for offense? Yeah, I would agree with that," Leafs coach Randy Carlyle said. "I believe that the teams that play better defense, usually the offense comes around. We are starving for offense right now; we need a bounce to go our way. It's not like we are not creating quality scoring chances; we are creating them."
Laich created his scoring chance by doing his homework. He watched Toronto's game against the Flyers on Saturday night and noticed how Jake Gardiner
had a tendency to make a casual no-look drop passes in the neutral zone.
So when the Maple Leafs went on the power play in the first period, Laich slipped in behind Gardiner and picked off the pass, then went in to score on the shorthanded breakaway.
"We do the same play," Washington coach Dale Hunter said. "It's a little high risk, so if you read it right, you get breakaways off of it. ... (Laich) is watching it to learn from it, and you pick up anything. He wants to win, and he's kind of like a coach."
Laich's goal gave the Capitals a 1-0 lead for the fourth straight game -- a reversal from a recent slump when the other teams kept scoring first.
"Big -- really big -- 48 hours," Laich said.
Perreault added a cushion in the first minute of the third period, putting in the rebound after Gustavsson made a kick save on shot by Alexander Semin
Neuvirth did the rest, getting his seventh career shutout in his 100th NHL game. He got the start after Tomas Vokoun
won the previous two games.
"Both guys are ready to go," Hunter said. "And that's good for me."
Material from wire services and team media was used in this report.