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With new coach, Maple Leafs lose to Capitals

by Mike Brophy /

TORONTO -- A coaching change by the Toronto Maple Leafs did not achieve the immediate desired results, and they lost to the Washington Capitals 6-2 at Air Canada Centre on Wednesday.

The Maple Leafs (21-17-3), who have lost three in a row and eight of their past 10 games, fired Randy Carlyle on Tuesday and named Peter Horachek coach on Wednesday.

"There's always disappointment when we lose like that, but there were some good things too," Horachek said. "We outchanced them, our possession numbers were better, we outshot them (33-26), but we gave up some poor timely goals. The shorthanded goal was bad, but their fourth goal was a backbreaker. Right after we scored our second goal we might have had some momentum on our side, and if you [take] their two goals, it's 2-2, and we're right in the game."

Horachek said he felt the Maple Leafs were "jazzed" for the game but then seemed to be nervous once the puck was dropped. He said he was pleased they were able to keep Washington to 26 shots on goal and that they limited the Capitals to 12 scoring chances.

"There's still a game to be played beyond the analytics and all the stats," Horachek said. "We gave up goals that were untimely and unnecessary, and if we can eliminate those things we'll be better off."

Horachek, 54, spent 10 years as an assistant with the Nashville Predators under Capitals coach Barry Trotz and was coach of the Florida Panthers for 66 games last season, finishing 26-36-4.

Toronto defeated Washington 6-2 on Nov. 29 and won eight of nine games before slumping.

Washington (21-11-7) has won three in a row.

The Maple Leafs got the first three shots on goal, but it was the Capitals who scored with their first shot. Marcus Johansson broke hard to the Toronto net and his high shot hit the bar at the back of the net and quickly deflected out at 5:10.

The Maple Leafs tied it 1-1 at 4:49 of the second period when left wing Daniel Winnik tipped a low shot from the point by defenseman Cody Franson past Washington goalie Braden Holtby for his second goal of the season, first since the 10th game (Oct. 31).

The Capitals took a 2-1 lead with a shorthanded goal at 6:20. Jay Beagle beat Maple Leafs defenseman Jake Gardiner to a loose puck in the Toronto zone and then hit the trailer on the play, Eric Fehr, who scored his 12th goal of the season.

Washington made it 3-1, 1:38 later when Brooks Laich scored his fifth of the season after Fehr won a faceoff in the Toronto zone.

Maple Leafs defenseman Roman Polak displayed some nifty stick-handling to keep the puck in the Capitals zone and passed to Leo Komarov, who relayed the puck to Trevor Smith at the side of the net. Smith tapped in his first of the season at 16:08.

The Capitals went back up by two 42 seconds later when Johansson scored his second of the game, 12th of the season, two shy of his career high.

Fehr scored his second of the game at 11:20 of the third period two seconds after a penalty to Komarov expired. Fehr's sharp-angle slap shot went off the post past goalie Jonathan Bernier.

Washington's Alex Ovechkin scored an empty-net goal at 19:34 to extend his streak to four games. It was his 20th goal of the season.

The Capitals have been a much better defensive team in their first season under Trotz.

"It's the way we used all five guys in the defensive zone to help break out the puck," Fehr said. "We do a good job coming back and helping our defense find outlets. It really frustrates teams when they can't sustain pressure and we can just get the puck up and out."

Fehr said Trotz put the Capitals through a lot of tough defensive-zone drills in training camp.

"I have a feeling the Maple Leafs are going to be playing a very similar system," Fehr said. "You can't do it all in one day. We established that in training camp with a lot of physical battles and teaching, and I don't know how much time they are going to have to learn it on the fly. It's a five-man system and you can't have any weak links."

Toronto defenseman Stephane Robidas said he was disappointed the Maple Leafs did not make the Capitals earn what they achieved.

"We kind of gave it to them," Robidas said. "That is an area we can correct. …

"We can't focus on what happened in the past and what happened yesterday or today," he said. "We have to move forward and look at ourselves and do what we can as individuals to help the team."

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