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Carlson leads Caps to first home win, 4-3 over Maple Leafs

WASHINGTON (AP) — Once again, the Washington Capitals have a player leading the NHL in scoring. Just not the one you might expect.

John Carlson had a goal and two assists, giving the defenseman a league-high 14 points, and the Capitals beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-3 Wednesday night for their first home win of the season.

“Just getting lucky I think,” said Carlson, on pace to double his career high of 70 points from a season ago. “Guys are making some good plays to me, and the guys I’m passing to are scoring right now.”

Carlson moved ahead of Edmonton forwards Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, who began the night with 12 points and played later Wednesday.

Capitals teammate Alex Ovechkin, a three-time MVP who has paced the league in points (2007-08) and goals (eight times) during his illustrious career, garners much of the attention on offense in Washington. But it’s been Carlson at the forefront early this season. His 11 assists were also tops in the NHL, and they’ve come while the club awaits the return of Michael Kempny from offseason hamstring surgery.

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“He’s playing really well, and that’s something that we talked about this summer with the departure of some other guys,” coach Todd Reirden said. “He’s been a big reason why we’ve been able to get through this time without Kempny.”

Nicklas Backstrom added a goal and an assist, and Jakub Vrana and Evgeny Kuznetsov also scored for Washington, which lost its first three home games for the first time since October 1983. Two of those defeats came in overtime.

Rookie goaltender Ilya Samsonov made 29 saves in his first home start to earn his third career win after going down 2-0 early. His last stop came as Washington killed off Carl Hagelin’s third-period penalty for hooking.

“It was a really good game for a young goaltender, because things probably didn’t go exactly how he wanted in the first, and he made an adjustment,” Reirden said. “He completely settled down and let pucks begin to start to hit him.”

Kasperi Kapanen scored short-handed and assisted on Ilya Mikheyev’s goal as Toronto grabbed the first-period lead. John Tavares scored late in the third to cut the deficit to 4-3.

Michael Hutchinson stopped 28 shots in his second start for the Maple Leafs, who lost on the road for the first time this season. Toronto has given up 10 goals in two games played as the second of a back-to-back set.

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“The bottom line is we’ve got to do a better job of keeping it out of our net,” coach Mike Babcock said. “It’s one thing if they’ve made a play that’s unbelievable. But if you’re not standing next to your guy, that’s on you.”

Toronto still led after the first intermission, but that turned into a 4-2 deficit during a 68-second stretch of the second period.

First, Kuznetsov took Carlson’s pass on the break, cut in from the left and wrapped a backhand around Hutchinson’s left pad with 14:53 left in the period. Just 11 seconds following the restart, Backstrom’s one-timer off T.J. Oshie’s feed beat Hutchinson to give Washington the lead.

Within 30 seconds of that, Nicholas Shore and Codi Ceci both took minor penalties to give the Capitals a 5-on-3. And with 13:35 remaining in the period, Carlson scored off Ovechkin’s feed for Washington’s seventh power-play goal of the season.

“When other teams have gifted offensive players, they’re going to have a push at some point in the game,” Hutchinson said. “It’s just unfortunate they were able to bury their chances on their push.”

NOTES: The Capitals lost D Jonas Siegenthaler (left shoulder) and RW Richard Panik (upper body) to injury following the second period. They will be evaluated Thursday. … The WNBA champion Washington Mystics were on hand. League MVP Elena Delle Donne dropped the ceremonial first puck prior to the game, and Mystics forward Aerial Powers rode on a zamboni while toting the championship trophy during the first intermission. … Kapanen’s short-handed goal was the first scored by the Maple Leafs and first allowed by the Capitals this season. … After scoring five goals in Toronto’s first three games, Auston Matthews has gone without a point in three of his last five. He has seven goals overall.

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UP NEXT

Maple Leafs: Host the Boston Bruins on Saturday.

Capitals: Host the New York Rangers on Friday.

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