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Maple Leafs can clinch with win vs. Capitals and help

by Brian Hunter /

MAPLE LEAFS (24-13-5) at CAPITALS (23-17-2)


Last 10: Toronto 7-1-2; Washington 8-1-1

Season series: Third and final meeting of the regular season. The Toronto Maple Leafs own a pair of one-goal victories, but both came in the opening weeks of the season when the Washington Capitals were struggling mightily. James van Riemsdyk has three goals to lead all scorers.

Big story: The time to party in Toronto is drawing ever closer, as the Maple Leafs can clinch a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs as early as Tuesday -- any combination of four points gained by the Leafs and lost by the Winnipeg Jets, who are hosting the Tampa Bay Lightning, will end a postseason drought for Toronto that stretches back to 2004. The Capitals won't be an easy opponent, however -- they're aiming for an eighth consecutive win.

Team Scope:

Maple Leafs: Another first-rate effort from goaltender James Reimer and a timely power-play goal from Phil Kessel was enough for Toronto to steal a 2-0 victory from the Devils on Monday in a game where the Maple Leafs were outshot by a 32-12 margin. Thanks to numerous highlight-reel stops by Reimer, the game stayed scoreless until 6:32 remained in the third period, when Kessel capitalized just eight seconds after a holding penalty on Marek Zidlicky. Jay McClement later scored into an empty net.

"Obviously, we didn't play anywhere near what out expectations were," coach Randy Carlyle said, "but the old adage of hockey is, you don't critique a win and good teams find ways to win hockey games. We didn't play very good. We didn't really have our work boots on and got out-competed early in the game, but our goaltender stole us a hockey game."

Capitals: It wasn't the way Washington drew up getting two points, but when Mike Green scored on the power play 2:59 into overtime Saturday, all that mattered to the Capitals was escaping Verizon Center with a 6-5 win over the Lightning. A three-goal first period capped by Alex Ovechkin's 27th of the season helped them build a 5-1 lead less than six minutes into the second. But the visitors staged a furious rally that threatened to end the Caps' streak in inglorious fashion before Green came through with his sixth career OT goal.

"It was huge. We had a couple of games in hand here [on Winnipeg] and we took advantage of them," said Mathieu Perreault, who assisted on a pair of goals. "And now we have got our destiny in our hand. We have to just keep winning and not look back."

Who's hot: Reimer is 4-0-1 in his past five starts for the Maple Leafs, allowing a total of seven goals and posting a .956 save percentage. Kessel has six goals in his past four games. McClement has goals in consecutive games. … Ovechkin has 18 goals in 17 games for the Capitals dating back to March 14. Nicklas Backstrom has 20 assists over the same stretch. Troy Brouwer has three goals in the past two games.

Injury report: Toronto forward Joffrey Lupul (concussion) has been cleared to play, but was held out of the lineup Monday. … Washington forward Joel Ward (knee) was on the ice in full gear prior to Monday's practice. He has been sidelined along with forward Brooks Laich (groin) and defenseman Tom Poti (back).

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