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Leafs roll over Caps in 7-1 win

by Neil Acharya
TORONTO -- With five losses in six games and a M*A*S*H unit worth of missing talent, it was hard to see this one coming.

But Saturday was one of those nights when the Toronto Maple Leafs could do almost nothing wrong -- and the Washington Capitals did very little right.

Joffrey Lupul had a goal and three assists to lead a scoring parade as the Maple Leafs routed the Capitals 7-1 at the Air Canada Centre.

"It was just one of those nights," Lupul said after seven Leafs turned on the red light. "We knew we were on the verge of one of those breakout nights and everyone contributed tonight, the power play was good, the penalty kill was good, Monster (Jonas Gustavsson) was awesome, so (it was) just a good night for us."

The Leafs blew the game open with four goals in the second period, including three on the power play, as they handed the Capitals their third consecutive loss.

Gustavsson stopped 40 shots -- 33 in the final two periods -- for his first win since Nov. 2.

Toronto led 2-1 entering the second period, but scored 1:18 after the puck was dropped. With Matt Hendricks in the box for slashing, Lupul parked himself at the edge of the crease and set up Tyler Bozak with a nice backhand flip pass. Bozak's second goal of the season put the Leafs up by 3-1.

The Caps thought they had pulled within one when Mike Knuble jammed the puck past Gustavsson at 4:35, but the referees ruled that the puck was frozen before crossing the goal line. It was one of several goalmouth scrambles generated by the Capitals in the second. Gustavsson stopped 15 shots in the period, including big saves on Alex Ovechkin and Alexander Semin on a late Washington power play.   

"I felt pretty good, I felt my warm-up was good and I was ready for the challenge, the longer the game goes, the more shots you face and you feel better and better...You try to see it as a 0-0 game even if you are up by a few goals," said Gustavsson who won for the fifth time this season.

Just over a minute after Washington's non-goal, Toronto's Phil Kessel scored his League-leading 14th of the season, prompting Washington coach Bruce Boudreau to pull Tomas Vokoun and replace him with Michal Neuvirth.  

Vokoun allowed four goals on 18 shots in just over 25 minutes, but forward Troy Brouwer was quick to put his goaltender's night into perspective.

"A lot of the time the goalie gets changed not because of how he is playing but because of how the team in front of him is playing," he said. "He's been solid for us for pretty much most of the year and tonight I thought he was good, we just didn't give him help."

Toronto made it 5-1 at 17:12 during another power play when Dion Phaneuf sent a pass into the crease to Lupul, who scored his 10th of the season and earned his fourth point of the night. It was the first four-point night for Lupul since Dec. 20, 2008, when he was a member of the Philadelphia Flyers, coincidentally it came against the Capitals.  Lupul also matched a career high with three assists.

"I have a lot of confidence right now, I could tell right from training camp that I felt pretty good, I was confident with my game, I was confident with the way my body felt for the first time in a long time.  I didn't expect this type of start but I expected myself to play well", said Lupul who is near the top of the scoring race with 24 points, but had played just 77 games in the past two seasons entering 2011-12.  

Cody Franson's power-play goal at 19:29 capped the outburst. Ex-Capital Dave Steckel added a shorthanded goal in the final minute of regulation.

The victory was extra special for an injury-riddled Leaf team that had lost five of six coming into Saturday. Mike Komisarek (broken arm), Mikhail Grabovski (lower body), Colby Armstrong (ankle sprain), and Matthew Lombardi (upper body) all were out of the lineup, as was starting goaltender James Reimer, who's been sidelined for four weeks after being hit in the head during a collision with Montreal's Brian Gionta. Forward Mike Brown also did not suit up.

Due to the injuries, rookie Joe Colborne was called up from the AHL Toronto Marlies. He made an immediate impact by setting up fellow rookie Matt Frattin for his first NHL goal on a lovely cross-ice pass in the Capitals zone at 19:16 of the opening period to break a 1-1 tie.

Tim Connolly opened the scoring at 1:39 of the first period, beating Vokoun with a wrist shot from the faceoff circle to the left of the Capitals net minder.  Brooks Laich tied it less than a minute later by taking a drop pass from Jason Chimera and blasting a shot past Gustafsson.

Ovechkin, who entered the game with 14 goals in 12 career games at the Air Canada Centre, matched his season-high with eight shots on goal but was held without a point.

"Right now every goalie against us plays great," said the dejected Capitals' captain. "We had opportunities to score goals and we didn't, we just have to fight through that. It's hard, but you have to forget this game and be ready for tomorrow.  We have lots of skill on this team and all our lines can score goals like how you saw in the first ten games, right now nobody can score, we're just frustrated, when we have the opportunity to shoot it, we just squeeze the stick to hard."
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