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Maple Leafs top Capitals in shootout

by Joe Yerdon

TORONTO - After making 49 saves in regulation and overtime, James Reimer had enough left in the tank to help the Toronto Maple Leafs win a shootout.

Reimer's heroics got the Maple Leafs into the tiebreaker, and James van Riemsdyk and Joffrey Lupul scored in the tiebreaker to give Toronto a 2-1 win against the Washington Capitals at Air Canada Centre on Saturday night.

Lupul started the fourth round of the shootout by beating Braden Holtby with a wrist shot. Troy Brouwer had a chance to extend the tiebreaker but fired his wrister over the net. Eric Fehr scored in the first round to give Washington the lead, but van Riemsdyk scored on a backhander in the second round to get the Maple Leafs even.

"It's something that I've been working on and want to get better," said Reimer, who won for only the fourth time in 13 career shootouts. "I don't know if I played them too, too well. I felt that I backed out a little too much on some but still managed to make the saves. It means a lot, but shootouts are shootouts."

David Clarkson scored midway through the second period for Toronto. Alex Ovechkin tied the game and became the first NHL player to reach the 20-goal mark this season when he beat Reimer with 4:10 left in regulation.

"He's a good player," Reimer said. "You want to be on the top of your crease and you want to make him beat you with a great shot. I thought I was in good position, and I think the puck took a funny bounce there and landed on the stick and he ripped it post and in, low blocker. It's a good shot by a good player. Good for him."

Clarkson opened the scoring at 10:08 of the second when he deflected a power-play point shot from Jake Gardiner past Holtby for his second goal of the season. The goal was reviewed to see if the puck was deflected into the net with a high stick, but video replay was inconclusive and the goal was allowed to stand.

"We've been preaching and we've been pleading with our players: 'Just direct pucks towards the net and drive the middle lane,'" Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle said. "We're far, far too cute."

While the Maple Leafs were able to score on the power play, they held Capitals scoreless on their three opportunities with the extra man -- a marked improvement after allowing the Nashville Predators to go 2-for-4 on the power play in a 4-2 loss on Thursday.

"We kind of changed it up a little bit tonight just based on what they were doing on their power play," Maple Leafs defenseman Mark Fraser said. "But they have a couple key shooters on their team, which is pretty obvious, and we just tried to isolate them as best we could and maybe force them out of their comfort zone and force them to maybe make plays that they weren't too comfortable with."

With eight seconds left in the second period, Capitals forward Mikhail Grabovski was injured when he was cut in the face by Clarkson's skate blade. Grabovski was bleeding, but headed off the ice under his own power and returned six minutes into the third. It was Grabovski's first game against the Maple Leafs since being bought out by Toronto during the summer.

"He doesn't get enough credit for how tough he is," Holtby said. "He battles through a lot. He fights hard through every game. He works as hard as anyone on our team so it's great to see he didn't hurt too bad and see he came back."

Washington outshot Toronto 19-4 in the third period and tied the game when Ovechkin fired a loose puck from between the circles past Reimer.

"You've got to give [Reimer] credit," Capitals coach Adam Oates said. "He played a great game. He looked like he was not going to get beat. We stuck one by him but he looked solid. Some of the PP chances, we're walking down Broadway there with point-blanks. He did a great job of handling it and controlling his rebounds. They protected him pretty good."

Reimer's performance moved him into the league lead in save percentage at .947.

"It means something but it doesn't mean everything, that's for sure," Reimer said. "It's cool to be up there, but at the same time the most important thing is playing the best for your teammates. So whether that's a .915 save or a .940 - whatever gets the job done."

Holtby finished with 27 saves for the Capitals, who've dropped three in a row. The 50 shots on goal were the most by the Capitals in a game this season.

"We get lots of chances, [the] power play had lots of good opportunities to score," Ovechkin said. "Five-on-five, especially in the third period, I don't think they had any chances out there. Reimer made good saves, kept them in the game, but you can see if we get the chance to shoot the puck we don't have [anybody] in front of the net."

The Maple Leafs (14-8-1) host the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday. The Capitals (12-10-2) are off until Wednesday when they host the Ottawa Senators.

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