TORONTO – Quality over quantity continues to work for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Again Saturday night they were outshot and again they found a way to win, beating the Washington Capitals 2-1 in a shootout at Air Canada Centre.
The Leafs were outshot 50-28 in regulation and overtime, and held the lead until the final minutes of the third period when Alex Ovechkin tied it with his NHL-leading 20th goal of the season.
Joffrey Lupul scored the shootout winner for Toronto (14-8-1). Goaltender James Reimer stopped three of the four shots he faced in the shootout after making 49 saves during the game.
Reimer was in line for a shutout until Ovechkin scored at the 15:50 mark of the third. That erased the lead the Leafs had from when David Clarkson scored on the power play in the second.
Clarkson’s redirection goal came on just the Leafs’ second shot of the second period and 12th of the night. Meanwhile, the Capitals (12-10-2) were putting plenty of shots on Reimer and coming up empty.
The quality on that end was working in the Leafs’ favour, though. They kept many of Washington’s attempts to the outside and let Reimer see the pucks coming at him.
Capitals centre Mikhail Grabovski was playing his first game in Toronto since the Leafs bought out the final four years of his contract during the off-season. He didn’t leave on great terms because of some disparaging comments he made about coach Randy Carlyle, but he expressed nothing but positive emotions Saturday about being back.
“I’m really happy to be here,” Grabovski said. “I’m happy to be around my friends who love me before and I love them, family, friends. Like home ice, my old home ice.”
Grabovski had a scary moment late in the second period when he took an inadvertent skate to the face from Clarkson as he was falling and the Leafs winger was skating by. Grabovski remained on the ice for a while as the play continued and skated quickly to the bench after the whistle, leading to the crowd of 19,473 showering him with boos.
Those fans did not see the blood coming from Grabovski’s face. He needed 20 stitches to repair two separate cuts, according to the Capitals, and returned early in the third period.
Clarkson being involved in that freak accident was no surprise given that he seemed to be everywhere Saturday night. Even before scoring, the 29-year-old was flying and making plays on a line with Nazem Kadri and Lupul.
But it was on the power play when Clarkson made a tangible difference. With Eric Fehr in the penalty box for interference, Clarkson had a perfect tip of Jake Gardiner’s shot from the point that beat Holtby at the 10:08 mark of the second.
The NHL’s situation room took a look and called it a good goal.
“Video review was inconclusive in determining whether David Clarkson’s stick contacted the puck below the height of the crossbar,” the league said in a statement.
Just over a minute after scoring, Clarkson hit the outside of the post. Later in the period he took a hit from Capitals right winger Joel Ward and appeared to be in pain as he went to the bench, but he didn’t miss a shift.
Clarkson also took an interference penalty early in the third.
It looked like Clarkson would be far more influential in the game than Ovechkin, who typically brings his A-game on “Hockey Night in Canada.” He was dangerously close to his season low in shots (three) but managed to get the job done.
Fehr scored in the shootout for the Capitals. James van Riemsdyk and Lupul scored for the Leafs.
© The Canadian Press, 2013