Home-ice horror show

Vesa Toskala gets pulled for Andrew Raycroft after allowing four goals in the first period against...

Vesa Toskala gets pulled for Andrew Raycroft after allowing four goals in the first period against the Capitals. (Sun Media/Craig Robertson)

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:44 AM ET

With a large pack of Toronto reporters scrunched around him, Alex Ovechkin rubbed the stubble on the bottom of his chin, then flashed his trademark gap-toothed smile.

The young Washington Capitals superstar had just been asked how opposing teams could stop him from dominating games, a question that he obviously found humorous.

"Nobody can stop me ... just me," Ovechkin said confidently with a chuckle.

On this night, Alexander the Great was right on the mark.

Indeed, the hometown Maple Leafs, coming off back-to-back road victories, could not, in fact, stop Ovechkin.

Or anyone else in a white Capitals jersey, for that matter.

With impressive road victories over the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Rangers quickly fading in their rear-view mirror, the Leafs uncorked another all-too-familiar stinker on home ice last night, this one a rancid 7-1 loss to the Caps that had the capacity crowd already jeering in the first period.

"How do you explain this? I can't," befuddled captain Mats Sundin said.

"It was an unfortunate start. It seemed every shot they took ended up in our net early on.

"We were all jacked up after those two road wins.

"Then they got a couple of early bounces and, for whatever reason, we are just very fragile at home."

Ovechkin's two-goal performance should come as no surprise as he has humiliated more than one opponent with his cache of skills and youthful swagger.

But given the fact that the Caps limped into town missing regulars Tom Poti, Chris Clark and Alexander Semin because of injury, the Leafs should have put up a much more competitive fight.

Names like Boyd Gordon, Matt Pettinger, Jeff Schultz, Matt Bradley and Brian Sutherby might not appear on too many all-star ballots but all five managed to score their first goals of the season.

Perhaps coach Paul Maurice should have figured out it would be a long night when the Capitals spent almost the entire first minute of the game in the Toronto zone. Those defensive struggles spawned the first boo of the evening.

There would be more. Many more.

And many of them were directed at Andrew Raycroft, who obviously remains the fans' scapegoat despite the fact that starter Vesa Toskala struggled just as much.

Toskala was yanked just 13:56 into the game after Schultz scored on Washington's 13th shot to put the Caps up 4-1.

"It was the right move," Toskala said.

"It just seemed they got lucky bounces. We had some bad luck, too."

Enter Raycroft, who was was no worse than Toskala but absorbed the brunt of the crowd's wrath.

He, like injured defenceman Bryan McCabe, are in the dog house of Leafs Nation.

"You can't point a finger at the goalies," Sundin said. "It was all of us."

The Leafs now go on the road for four consecutive games, a tour that includes stops in New Jersey, Montreal, Ottawa and Buffalo.

With a promising Raptors season tipping off tomorrow, it might be the best thing for them.


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