WASHINGTON -- You give Alex Ovechkin seven shots on net, chances are he's going to score.
And that's precisely what occurred at the Verizon Centre last night, as Ovechkin and the high-flying Washington Capitals defeated the Maple Leafs 4-1.
Ovechkin scored the winner and an empty-netter, giving him 11 goals in his past nine games. That recent scoring surge is good news for the short-handed Capitals.
Third-leading scorer Alexander Semin missed his fourth straight game because of a back injury, while Tomas Fleischmann sat out last night with pneumonia.
"It's amazing how hard he can shoot," Leafs goalie Vesa Toskala said of the all-star winger. "It's just so heavy. And if you give him lots of chances, he's going to score for sure."
Toronto now has dropped three in row, losing 8-2 to Dallas on Tuesday and 4-1 to a New York Islanders team on Friday that had lost 10 straight.
The win was the seventh consecutive at home for the Caps. Washington is an Eastern Conference-best 15-1-1 at home this season.
They outhit the Leafs, which led to eight Toronto giveaways and two Washington goals. They also outshot the Leafs 29-24.
"There are some things we've gotten away from offensively," Leafs coach Ron Wilson said of his team's back-to-back one-goal games. "We're not shooting enough pucks toward the net and creating scrambling situations, and that's something were going to have to work on in practice (today).
"They make it really difficult, they play in-your-face hockey. We didn't have much room."
Centre Brooks Laich also scored twice for Washington, while Niklas Hagman scored Toronto's only goal.
Toskala has been shaky of late, but he was hot to start last night's game, making two excellent saves on Laich and Ovechkin. He also had a little help from the post. Shortly after his save on Ovechkin, Capitals defenceman Mike Green rang one off the iron from the point.
The Leafs then jumped ahead at 14:23 of the first when centre Mikhail Grabovski blew past Washington centre David Steckel and his shot attempt deflected back to Hagman in the slot. Hagman beat Washington starter Jose Theodore with a wrist shot to the blocker side.
Laich then tied it at 12:54 of the second with the Leafs killing an unnecessary penalty. Defenceman Pavel Kubina ran interference on Washington tough guy Donald Brashear, which he didn't really need to do, as Brashear is not particularly quick.
Ovechin then scored the winner seven minutes later when he took advantage of the Leafs failing to clear the puck in the neutral zone. Ovechin stormed in on Toskala, used Leafs defenceman Ian White as a screen, and beat Toskala with all of 10 seconds left in the period.
"In a 1-1 hockey game, we gave the puck away twice when we should have realized the time, the score and who's on the ice," Wilson said of the first Ovechkin goal. "And that came back to haunt us."
"That goal killed us," Nik Antropov said. "It put us down on our asses."
The Capitals sealed the win after a terrible giveaway by Leafs defenceman Tomas Kaberle with less than five minutes remaining. Kaberle, who was under pressure behind the net, cleared it to the front. Laich then scored his second of the game on a rebound for a 3-1 lead.
Kaberle said he was trying to clear it to Kubina.
"I saw (Kubina) open," said Kaberle said of his giveaway. "In the last five minutes of the game, you have to open up."
Ovechkin scored with four seconds remaining and Toskala on the bench.
NOT GONNA BITE
Capitals tough guy Donald Brashear, one of the top brawlers in the NHL, attempted to bait Toronto's policeman Andre Deveaux into a fight in the first period, but Deveaux took a pass, no doubt setting Don Cherry up for a rant next Saturday. Cherry has been critical of Deveaux for not fighting, although the Welland native has dropped the gloves six times since being called up from the Marlies on Nov. 26.
Ron Wilson moved John Mitchell between Alexi Ponikarovsky and Nik Antropov, with Matt Stajan out with the eye injury. Taking Mitchell's place on the fourth line was newly returned winger Jamal Mayers.
The Capitals outshot the Leafs 12-9 in the first period, but the Leafs led 1-0. A big difference was shot blocking. The Leafs blocked 15 shots in the first, while the Caps blocked only five. Tomas Kaberle blocked one more in the frame than did the Capitals.
The Leafs are the fourth team in a row to shut out the Capitals in the first period.
Toronto G A P
Niklas Hagman 1 0 1
Mikhail Grabovski 0 1 1
Jonas Frogren 0 1 1
Alex Ovechkin 2 0 2
Brooks Laich 2 0 2
Nicklas Backstrom 0 2 2
Mike Green 0 2 2
Milan Jurcina 0 1 1
Tomorrow -- 7:30 p.m.; Maple Leafs vs. Atlanta Thrashers at the ACC; TV: TSN; Radio: AM 640