WASHINGTON -- The Washington Capitals scored three goals in 78 seconds in the second period before holding off the Toronto Maple Leafs for a 4-3 win at Capital One Arena on Wednesday.
John Carlson had a goal and two assists, and Nicklas Backstrom had a goal and an assist for Washington (4-2-2), which had lost four of its past five games. Ilya Samsonov made 29 saves in his first home start.
"We were way more aggressive there and we kept it simple," Backstrom said of the second period. "That's what you've got to do against teams like this. You've got to put pressure on them, and we did that. So that got us the chances we got."
[WATCH: All Maple Leafs vs. Capitals highlights]
Kasperi Kapanen had a goal and two assists, and Michael Hutchinson made 28 saves for Toronto (4-3-1), which was playing the second of back-to-back games.
"It was disappointing because we thought we were set up pretty good, but the bottom line is we've got to find a way to play better in these back-to-backs," coach Mike Babcock said of the Maple Leafs, who are 0-2-0 in the second game of back-to-back sets and have allowed nine goals in the two games.
Jakub Vrana cut it to 2-1 at 18:59 of the first period, receiving a pass from Carlson and beating Hutchinson with a one-timer from the right face-off circle.
Video: TOR@WSH: Vrana pots Carlson's feed from the circle
"It was a great pass because he fakes the pass to [Lars Eller] and it obviously makes us all freeze and think he's going to pass it over there." Vrana said. "So it was a good fake. He finds me there pretty good."
Evgeny Kuznetsov tied it 2-2 at 5:07 of the second period when he skated around Maple Leafs forward John Tavares and scored with a backhand. Backstrom scored 11 seconds later to give the Capitals a 3-2 lead on a one-timer from the left circle, and Carlson made it 4-2 at 6:25 on a one-timer from the top of the left circle during a 5-on-3 power play.
Video: Clutch Performance: Carlson nets three points in win
Carlson has 11 points (three goals, eight assists) during a five-game point streak.
"I'm just getting lucky I think," Carlson said. "Guys are making some good plays to me and you know, the guys I'm passing to are scoring right now. Especially as a [defenseman], I think it's pretty streaky."
With Hutchinson pulled for the extra skater, Taveras scored from the high slot following a giveaway by Alex Ovechkin to cut it to 4-3 with 2:33 remaining in the third period.
Video: TOR@WSH: Tavares pots wrister from the slot
"I thought we stayed with it even after we got down," Tavares said. "Just kept working and we had chances."
Kapanen gave the Maple Leafs a 1-0 lead with a shorthanded goal at 4:37 of the first. Following a turnover in the neutral zone, Trevor Moore skated in on a 2-on-1 and passed to Kapanen, who scored his first of the season into an open net from the crease.
Ilya Mikheyev made it 2-0 when he took a pass from Kapanen and scored on a breakaway at 10:58.
"We started well," Toronto defenseman Morgan Rielly said. "Then there was a 10-12 minute span where we didn't play our best. They capitalized and it made a big difference."
They said it
"It was 5-to-1 (in power plays) tonight and that's tough, especially on a back-to-back, having to use all that energy against a team like that. [Power plays are] a really strong part of their game with the type of skill and shooters they have." -- Maple Leafs captain John Tavares
"I have to tell you, tonight I wasn't concerned when we were down 2-0. I thought they converted on a couple chances, but I had a good feeling about our team tonight. There was no panic, we stayed with our game, we built and built and built, shift after shift, and it was a matter of time." -- Capitals coach Todd Reirden
Need to know
Babcock coached his 1,286th game, passing Darryl Sutter for 13th place in NHL history. … Capitals defenseman Jonas Siegenthaler (upper body) and forward Richard Panik (upper body) each left the game after colliding late in the second period. Reirden said they will be re-evaluated Thursday. … With three points, Carlson passed Sergei Gonchar (416) for fourth place in Capitals history among defensemen.
Maple Leafs: Host the Boston Bruins on Saturday (7 p.m. ET; NHLN, CBC, SN1, NESN, NHL.TV)
Capitals: Host the New York Rangers on Friday (7 p.m. ET; NHLN, TVAS, NBCSWA, MSG, NHL.TV)
Video: Carlson, Backstrom lead Caps past Maple Leafs, 4-3