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Power play helps Maple Leafs handle Capitals

by Mike Brophy

TORONTO -- The Toronto Maple Leafs have not been happy with their power play, or their play at home.

In one game Saturday, they temporarily solved each issue.

The Maple Leafs scored three power-play goals in a convincing 6-2 win against the Washington Capitals at Air Canada Centre.

It opened a five-game homestand for Toronto.

"We had a good start and that is important," Maple Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly said. "We were not happy with the way we have been starting games, so this is a step in the right direction."

The Maple Leafs were 3-for-4 on the power play, having entered the game on a 1-for-23 streak, and they killed two of three Capitals power plays.

Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle was particularly pleased with their play with the man-advantage.

"We spread them out and we moved the puck around," Carlyle said. "It wasn't really one-dimensional; we worked from both sides of the ice. We have become pretty predicable as of late in that we always wanted to work one side, and if you noticed the puck was changing sides and we were able to spread people out and found the open guy in front of the net."

Rielly scored at even strength 14:15 into the first period, with a rising slap shot from the left point that appeared to bounce off one or two Capitals defenders before beating goalie Justin Peters.

Carlyle put center Nazem Kadri at the right point with the man-advantage in an effort to generate more offense. On his first shift, Kadri, playing his 200th NHL game, made a bad pass that was knocked out of the Washington zone, and then he fanned on an attempted wrist shot. Kadri was replaced by defenseman Cody Franson, who took a shot from the right point and scored his fourth goal of the season to make it 2-0 with 23 seconds left in the first period.

The Capitals replaced Peters with Braden Holtby to start the second period and the Maple Leafs welcomed him to the game with a goal at 23 seconds on their first shot. James van Riemsdyk made a perfect pass to Tyler Bozak at the side of the net, and he deflected it past Holtby.

Washington cut the lead to 3-1 at 10:37 when Troy Brouwer scored his sixth goal of the season on the power play with a slap shot from the high slot that beat Maple Leafs goalie Jonathan Bernier.

David Clarkson restored the Maple Leafs' three-goal lead 23 seconds later when he scored his seventh of the season on a snap shot from the slot.

With Washington defenseman Jack Hillen off for holding, Bozak scored his second of the game by tipping a pass from Phil Kessel past Holtby at 15:36.

Bozak had an opportunity to complete his hat trick late in the second period when he was set up in front of the Washington net, but his shot was stopped by Holtby.

"I passed to Phil and he got a good shot," Bozak said. "The puck came to me and I didn't really see how much of the net I had. I tried to get it off quick and put it on net, but I put it right into him."

Bozak has 11 two-goal games in his NHL career without getting a hat trick.

Holtby was replaced by Peters to start the third period.

Washington's Tom Wilson made it 5-2 at 7:43 of the third when his routine-looking wrist shot managed to elude Bernier.

Toronto got that back at 16:40 with its third power-play goal, Joffrey Lupul tipping home a Jake Gardiner shot from the right point.

After scoring in back-to-back games, Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin of the Capitals was held without a goal despite leading all skaters with seven shots.

"We had a pretty good start and went to their zone right away," Ovechkin said. "We got some shots, but it was the kind of game where everything they shot went in. We had the early momentum and then they score three goals right away. After they made it 3-0, we scored a power-play goal and we needed to follow that with a shift where we created chances in their zone, but we didn't. It wasn't one person tonight; it was everybody. It was a hard game."

Carlyle has been preaching that the Maple Leafs need to be better here.

"Home games are great to have, but you've got to win them," Carlyle said. "To have success you've got to take advantage of the schedule when it comes your way and sets you up for some home games. You've got to take advantage of it."

The Maple Leafs lost aggressive checker Leo Komarov midway through the third period when he was knocked to the ice by Ovechkin. Carlyle said Komarov felt good after the game, but he would be evaluated before returning to action.

Prior to the game, the Maple Leafs paid tribute to former coach and general manager Pat Quinn, who died at 71 years old Sunday. Quinn wore No. 23 as a player with the Maple Leafs and it was noted the Maple Leafs had 23 shots on goal in the game, scored with 23 seconds remaining in the first period, and then again 23 seconds into the second period. Carlyle, who also wore No. 23 as a defenseman with the Maple Leafs, said it was a moving tribute to man who contributed a lot to the sport.

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