Old dog barks loud

ROB LONGLEY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 1:29 PM ET

Alex Ovechkin came to the Air Canada Centre last night prepared to put on the superstar show he often delivers when he ties up those flashy yellow laces.

Instead, it was a 41-year-old backup goaltender, a wildly popular Maple Leaf at that, who stole the thunder in what might be one of the final shining moments of his stellar career.

Put into the fire after starter Martin Gerber was ejected, Curtis Joseph kicked aside eight shots in overtime and then stopped Ovechkin as the last gun in the shootout to secure a dramatic 3-2 Toronto win.

"I could do the closer's role, I like it," said Joseph, who was named the game's first star for five minutes and 57 seconds of work, plus the shootout.

"Sometimes starting pitchers move to closers later in their career. It was fun."

The thrilling end prompted the crowd of 19,363 to break out in one last round of the "Cujo, Cujo" chant he has heard so often here. That was nothing compared to the welcome the veteran received when he returned the Leafs' dressing room as the hero.

"These are the guys I hang out with every day," Joseph said. "When they are supportive like that spontaneously, it feels great, obviously."

Not so for Gerber, who could face disciplinary action from the league for bumping referee Mike Leggo in an angry outburst following the controversial goal that sent the game to overtime. If the league rules against him, Gerber likely is to be slapped with a three-game suspension.

Ovechkin's goal in the final seconds of the second period, his 51st of the season, tied the game and was a rare bit of entertainment for the first 57 minutes or so.

In the end, however, it was a wild finish which included Gerber's game misconduct after Brooks Laich tied the score on a controversial goal with 57 seconds remaining in regulation.

"It shouldn't have happened," Gerber said. "The goal shouldn't have counted."

Gerber appeared to have the puck smothered until Laich came in and jabbed at it with his stick, essentially pushing Gerber across the line with the puck underneath him. The normally mild-mannered Gerber was incensed, firing a puck before running into the ref and getting tossed.

"I was just trying to do my job and get it over the line," Laich said. "I don't care what (Gerber) feels.

"It was an ugly goal but it was a big goal."

And one that erased the 2-1 Leafs lead that was barely a minute old after a power-play goal on a shot from the point by Leafs defenceman Pavel Kubina at 17:52.

CUE CUJO.

After stopping Ovechkin with 12 seconds remaining in regulation and again in overtime, he had to take on the league's pre-eminent sniper in the shootout.

Ovechkin tried a move to the right, but Joseph stayed cool and made a clutch pad save to preserve the win.

"You try to be patient and make yourself big and force him to do something he doesn't want to do maybe," Joseph said. "He's definitely the greatest player in the game right now, but I've played against the likes of Mario Lemieux and Wayne Gretzky so hopefully that experience helped me."

Lost in the Cujo's heroics were a pair of big plays by a couple of unheralded Leafs. Batting leadoff, Jeff Hamilton scored the lone goal of the shootout to set the stage for Joseph. The goaltender stopped Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Semin before Ovechkin, who tipped his hat to the man who stopped him.

"What can I say about him?" Ovechkin said. "He's a great goalie, an experienced guy. He made a very good save in overtime. It saved the point for them and it killed us."

---

REPLAY

LAST NIGHT AT THE ACC

TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS (31-30-13)

WASHINGTON CAPITALS (45-23-7)

ROOKIE MOMENT

Leafs rookie defenceman Luke Schenn found out twice on one shift in the first period just how dangerous Caps sniper Alex Ovechkin is. The first time, it was a blind pass, the second time, Ovechkin stripped him of the puck. Fortunately, for the Leafs, the NHL's leading sniper wasn't able to do any damage on either play.

SHOOTING STAR

On top of his talent, Ovechkin helps his odds at scoring by the sheer volume of shots he fires at the net. With seven shots last night, he now has a league high (475) on the season. The record is 550 fired by Bruins' Phil Esposito in the 1970-71 season.

BAD TIMING

The Leafs looked to be on their way to a 1-0 lead after two periods until forward Jamal Mayers took an interference penalty with one minute remaining. That was the wakeup call Ovechkin needed. With 20 seconds remaining, Ovechkin scored.

PLAYOFF MATH

With Montreal's win over the Atlanta Thrashers last night, the Habs kept hold of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with 83 points. The Leafs are eight points back with eight games remaining.


Videos

Photos