Maple Leafs top Capitals, 2-1, in a shootout

Niklas Hagman, left, is congratulated by teammates after his goal in regulation.
Niklas Hagman, left, is congratulated by teammates after his goal in regulation. (Abelimages/getty Images)
By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, November 22, 2009

TORONTO -- Alex Ovechkin splintered his stick in frustration as he headed to the visitors' dressing room at Air Canada Center.

Although he moved into a tie for second place in the NHL in goals with his 16th, the Washington Capitals winger was upset with how he had played in his team's lethargic 2-1 shootout loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs, the league's worst team.

"We didn't move our legs [including] me," he said. "I'm not happy how I play today. I'm not happy how my line play today. We score one goal, but we have to score more. We have more ice time than everybody, so we have to use it. We had a couple of chances on the power play, we don't score."

Ovechkin scored the Capitals' only goal in regulation, but the two-time MVP was stopped twice on the same power play -- one of four in which Washington came up empty -- by previously winless Maple Leafs goalie Vesa Toskala early in the third period. Then, in the shootout, Ovechkin missed the net by a wide margin, sending the puck crashing off the glass.

Moments later, Niklas Hagman, who had scored Toronto's only goal in regulation, beat Semyon Varlamov with a back-hander to end the Maple Leafs' slide at five games and give them reason to celebrate for only the fourth time all season.

"I thought we did come out flat and had some flat moments when they picked it up," Capitals captain Chris Clark said. "It is a point, but it's not a happy point."

In the locker room afterward there was a mixture of frustration about losing to the league's worst team and satisfaction from earning a point on a night when it was obvious many of the Capitals simply did not have much energy. It was the team's second game in as many nights and they were playing with a patchwork roster beset by injuries.

Washington was missing seven regulars (Alexander Semin, Mike Knuble, Boyd Gordon, Quintin Laing, Milan Jurcina, Tom Poti and Shaone Morrisonn) because of injury. That's almost a third of the team's 23-man roster, or about $16 million in salary, sitting on the sideline.

As a result, Coach Bruce Boudreau was forced to play five rookies (Jay Beagle, Mathieu Perreault, Andrew Gordon, John Carlson and Varlamov) and get creative with his forward combos and defensive pairs.

"We looked pretty tired," Boudreau said. "Some of the guys were dragging. Sometimes there's a bad one point and sometimes there's a good one point. I think tonight we were lucky to come away with one point, and it was a good point for us."

It was certainly a good night for Varlamov, who made 38 saves, including 16 in a second period dominated by Phil Kessel and the Leafs. The 21-year-old has allowed one or two goals in each of his past four starts.

As impressive as he has been, Boudreau said he isn't ready to name either of his goaltenders -- Varlamov or José Theodore -- the clear-cut No. 1 going forward.

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