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Martin Gerber makes 37 saves as the Maple Leafs beat the Caps 2-1

NHL.com @NHL

WASHINGTON - New Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Martin Gerber emerged from the minor league scrap heap to make 37 saves Thursday night in a 2-1 victory over the Washington Capitals.

The Caps played without NHL goal leader Alex Ovechkin and are mired in their worst home skid of the Bruce Boudreau era.

Lee Stempniak and Pavel Kubina scored, both in the third period, for the Maple Leafs, who extended their season-high points streak to eight games and saw an immediate dividend from the trade-deadline decision to claim Gerber off waivers from Ottawa on Wednesday.

Picked up on the same day Vesa Toskala announced he would need season-ending hip surgery, Gerber had been shipped to the AHL team in Binghamton by the Senators.

They shipped him out after a 4-9-1 record. He hadn't appeared in an NHL game since Jan. 8 but he got the start on his first full day with his new team.

Toskala, for sure, will be tough to replace.

He had been 7-0-4 with since the all-star break, but Gerber was impeccable in his first win since beating Edmonton on Dec. 30.

His highlight save: While lying on the ice in front of the crease, he somehow got his stick on David Steckel's point-blank shot when the game was scoreless early in the third period.

Gerber had a shutout until the final minute. With the Capitals goaltender pulled, Alexander Semin scored for Washington with 39 seconds to play.

The Capitals, meanwhile, have somehow lost the energy and flair that had them looking like Stanley Cup contenders for much of the season.

They have lost the first three games of this four-game homestand while being outscored 13-5.

The last time the Capitals dropped three straight home games in regulation was in November 2007, the final three games before coach Glen Hanlon was fired and replaced by Boudreau.

It didn't help that Ovechkin missed only the fourth game of his four-year NHL career. He was scratched with a bruised right heel, the result of a shot taken off the skate during practice on Wednesday.

Watching the game from an upstairs booth, the league's leading goal-scorer and reigning MVP said between periods that he was day-to-day and that he would "probably" play Sunday against rival Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Gerber and Washington's Jose Theodore matched each other save-for-save until Stempniak, shooting from behind the goal line, banked in a shot off Theodore's right skate with 13:55 remaining in the game.

Kubina scored on a one-timer from the right circle with 10:13 to play.

The Maple Leafs also put the puck in the net in the first period, but it was disallowed because of interference with the goaltender.

Jason Blake skated in with the puck and got tangled with Theodore - adding a little extra shove with the shoulder. Both fell to the ice, leaving the net open for Jeffrey Hamilton to pass to John Mitchell for an apparent score that was disallowed after a lengthy meeting among the officials.

Notes: Maple Leafs D Jeff Finger was hit in the face with the puck early in the second period, leaving a large blood stain on the ice. He returned in the third period. ... The game ended the Maple Leafs' streak of seven consecutive overtime games, which tied the NHL record held by the 2003-04 Edmonton Oilers. ... Semin has goals in five straight games, matching his career-best streak.

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