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game recap

Capitals defeat Maple Leafs, keep them from clinching

Washington closes in on Presidents' Trophy, top seed in East

by Dave McCarthy / NHL.com Correspondent

TORONTO -- The Toronto Maple Leafs failed to clinch a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs on Tuesday, losing 4-1 to the Washington Capitals at Air Canada Centre. 

"I thought they played good and I didn't think we did," Toronto coach Mike Babcock said. "Thought they had energy and we didn't have a whole bunch. We had a push at the start of the second period, I thought we were coming pretty good. We got a power play but we took a bad penalty on the power play. Then they scored on the power play, a missed assignment there, and I didn't think we had much after that."

Toronto was in position to clinch after the Boston Bruins defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-0. The Maple Leafs trail the Bruins and Ottawa Senators by one point in the Atlantic Division and are five points ahead of the Lightning and New York Islanders for the second wild card from the Eastern Conference. The Islanders defeated the Nashville Predators 2-1 in overtime.

 

WATCH: All Capitals vs. Maple Leafs highlights

 

Washington maintained a five-point lead in the Presidents' Trophy race and is one point from clinching it. Philipp Grubauer made 27 saves for the Capitals, who lead the Pittsburgh Penguins for first place in the Metropolitan Division, Eastern Conference and NHL. The Penguins defeated the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-1.

"That was amazing," Grubauer said. "This was probably one of the best games we played for 60 minutes. I don't think they had too many chances."

The Capitals outshot the Maple Leafs 13-3 in the first period and took a 1-0 lead when Lars Eller scored at 14:34. 

"We played with a little more detail, purpose. I thought we stayed with what we were doing pretty well the whole night," Washington coach Barry Trotz said. "We felt pretty comfortable; we just had to manage the game. I thought we made a lot more better decisions through the course of the game and didn't feed into what they can do so well."

Video: WSH@TOR: Grubauer snares Brown's power-play chance

Kevin Shattenkirk made it 2-0 with a power-play goal at 10:00 of the second period. It was his first goal for the Capitals since being traded by the St. Louis Blues on Feb. 27. The defenseman last scored Jan. 21, when he had two goals in a 5-3 loss to the Winnipeg Jets.

Nate Schmidt put a wrist shot from the top of the right circle past Maple Leafs goaltender Curtis McElhinney's blocker to make it 3-0 at 8:11 of the third period. Tom Wilson scored with 3:16 left for a 4-0 lead. 

Mitchell Marner spoiled Grubauer's shutout with a power-play goal with 1:08 remaining. 

Video: WSH@TOR: Schmidt wires home Connolly's dish

 

Goal of the game

The Capitals executed an effective cycle leading to Eller's goal. Burakovsky poked the puck around the net to Eller, who passed to Connolly at the top of the left faceoff circle. Connolly passed to Burakovsky at the goal line; he skated back up the boards and found Eller for a one-timer from the top of the circle.

Video: WSH@TOR: Eller beats McElhinney on heavy one-timer

 

Save of the game

Ovechkin cut around Maple Leafs forward Leo Komarov at 4:20 of the third period and took a wrist shot from the slot, but McElhinney made a blocker save.

Video: WSH@TOR: McElhinney robs Ovechkin's great chance

 

Highlight of the game

Shattenkirk took a cross-ice pass from Nicklas Backstrom and one-timed a shot from the top of the left faceoff circle past the right pad of McElhinney.

Video: WSH@TOR: Shattenkirk nets PPG for first as a Capital

 

Unsung performance of the game

Defenseman Brooks Orpik blocked a Capitals-high four shots and played 21:22.

 

They said it

"I played the puck more in the first period than I got shots. It helps me to stay kind of in the game. But I just watched the guys and be prepared for the next shot." -- Capitals goaltender Philipp Grubauer on facing three shots in the first period

 

"About three-quarters of the way through warmups. Carlson said he wasn't able to go and all of a sudden at the end there I had to be ready to rock. It was fun to be back out there, it was a good game for us, and it was a fun atmosphere to be a part of." -- Capitals defenseman Nate Schmidt on when he found out he was going to play

 

"I thought they came out and dictated play right from the get-go. I didn't think we had a whole lot of answers to be honest with you. I thought they were a good team that was hungry and competitive and won battles. They won [more] battles than we did and had more energy that we did." -- Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock

 

Need to know

Washington won its 109th game over the past two seasons, the most in back-to-back seasons since the shootout was instituted in 2005-06, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The Detroit Red Wings won 108 games in 2005-06 and 2006-07. ... Maple Leafs forward Brian Boyle sustained an upper-body injury and did not play after taking the last shift of the first period. He is day to day. … Capitals defenseman John Carlson took the warmup but was scratched with a lower-body injury. Trotz said it is nothing serious but Carlson is not expected to play against the New York Rangers on Wednesday. ... Ovechkin's assist put him into second place for NHL points (1,033) among Russia-born players. He passed Alexander Mogilny. Sergei Fedorov had 1,179. ... Maple Leafs forward William Nylander played his 100th NHL game.

 

What's next

Capitals: Host the New York Rangers on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET; TVA Sports, NBCSN, NHL.TV)

Maple Leafs: Host the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday (7:30 p.m. ET; TVA Sports, TSN4, FS-F, NHL.TV)

 

Video: Grubauer, Connolly shine in 4-1 win against Toronto

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