WASHINGTON — Joel Ward scored the go-ahead goal with just over 8 minutes left, and Alex Ovechkin had a goal and an assist as the Capitals edged the Maple Leafs 3-2 on Friday night.
Nicklas Backstrom also scored and goalie Michal Neuvirth, in his first start since Nov. 22, made 32 saves as the Capitals won on back-to-back nights for the fourth time this year. They beat the Lightning 4-3 on Thursday.
U.S. Olympians James Van Riemsdyk and Phil Kessel each had a goal and an assist for Toronto, which lost its fourth straight loss since beating the Red Wings 3-2 on Jan. 1 in the Winter Classic. The Maple Leafs have been outscored 21-7 in the defeats.
But coach Randy Carlyle said this might have been one of the Maple Leafs' better games in the past month.
"We've been begging, pleading, kicking, kissing, whatever we can do to try and find a way that we can play with some confidence," he said.
Ovechkin tied the score at 1 with his league-leading 32nd goal at 6:39 of the second period.
Kessel's team-high 21st goal gave Toronto a short-lived 2-1 lead in the third when his shot went off the stick of Washington defenseman Karl Alzner and over the shoulder of Neuvirth.
The Caps got the equalizer in similar fashion with 15:24 left. Backstrom's severe-angle shot went off the skate of Maple Leafs center Jay McClement and past Jonathan Bernier for his 11th goal.
Ward's winner, his 13th goal of the season, came with 8:10 left on a slap shot from 15 feet out on a pass from Marcus Johansson.
The last time Neuvirth was set to play for the Capitals, on Nov. 29, he hurt a leg in warmups. He had not suited up for a game since. With the Capitals playing their second of five games in seven days, Braden Holtby struggling and rookie Philipp Grubauer coming off a the win over the Lightning, Neuvirth made his first start since Nov. 22.
"I thought he played a great game, I really did," coach Adam Oates. "First period I think he had some shots that allowed him to get into the game, which is good for him. After the second goal he made a fantastic save that saved the game for us."
In the absence of Neuvirth, Grubauer (6-2-3) emerged as perhaps the team's most reliable goalie, prompting Neuvirth to request a trade late last month.
Game highlights: Rick Nash snapped a tie with 1:58 left and the host Rangers sent the Stars to their fifth straight loss, 3-2. The Rangers improved to 7-2-1 in their past 10. … Sergei Bobrovsky made 36 saves for his second shutout of the season and the host Blue Jackets ending the Hurricanes' season-best five-game winning streak with a 3-0 win.
First—None. Penalties—Kulemin, Tor (holding), 10:00; Volpatti, Was (cross-checking), 13:40.
Second—1, Wash, Ovechkin 32 (Grabovski, Green), 6:39. 2, Tor, van Riemsdyk 16 (Kessel, Bozak), 9:08 (pp). Penalties—Phaneuf, Tor (roughing), 4:01; Erskine, Was, double minor (roughing), 4:01; Grabovski, Was (tripping), 7:20; Gunnarsson, Tor (interference), 10:03; Ashton, Tor, major (fighting), 14:53; Wilson, Was, major (fighting), 14:53; Orr, Tor, major (fighting), 14:58; Erskine, Was, major (fighting), 14:58; Kulemin, Tor (tripping), 17:17.
Third—3, Tor, Kessel 21 (van Riemsdyk, Gunnarsson), :54. 4, Wash, Backstrom 11, 4:36. 5, Wash, Ward 13 (Johansson, Ovechkin), 11:51. Penalty—Clarkson, Tor (trip), 9:44. Shots on Goal—Tor 13-12-9—34. Wash 12-9-14—35. PP opps—Tor 1 of 3; Wash 0 of 4. Goalies—Tor, Bernier 13-14-4 (35 shots-32 saves). Wash, Neuvirth 3-3-1 (34-32).
|at Blue Jackets||2||0||1||3|
First—1, Columbus, Jenner 6, 15:00. 2, Columbus, Dubinsky 9 (Atkinson, Tyutin), 16:10. Penalties—None.
Third—3, Columbus, Atkinson 12 (Letestu, Murray), 5:54 (pp). Penalties—Ruutu, Car, double minor (high-sticking), 2:17; Nikitin, Clm (interference), 8:43; Anisimov, Clm (delay of game), 9:40; Gerbe, Car (roughing), 19:51; Dubinsky, Clm (roughing), 19:51. Shots on Goal—Carolina 7-16-13—36. Columbus 9-8-7—24. PP opps—Carolina 0 of 2; Columbus 1 of 2. Goalies—Carolina, Khudobin 6-1-0 (24 shots-21 saves). Columbus, Bobrovsky 12-11-2 (36-36).
First—1, Dal, Eakin 9 (Garbutt, Jo.Benn), 4:06. 2, NYR, Callahan 8 (Richards, Pouliot), 11:20. Penalties—None.
Second—3, Dal, Garbutt 8 (Roussel, Eakin), 3:34. 4, NYR, Brassard 7 (Zuccarello, Richards), 8:22 (pp). Penalty-Horcoff, Dal (hold stick), 7:52.
Third—5, NYR, Nash 10 (Kreider, Stepan), 18:02. Penalties—Garbutt, Dal (interfere), :26; Hagelin, NYR (dive), :27; Dal bench, served by Cole (too many men), 1:21; J.Moore, NYR (hook), 11:30. SOG—Dal 6-13-7—26. NYR 13-11-10—34. PP opps—Dal 0 of 1; NYR 1 of 3. Goalies—Dal, Lehtonen 16-12-7 (34 shots-31 saves). NYR, Lundqvist 14-16-3 (26-24).