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Maple Leafs edge past Ovechkin-less Capitals

THE Toronto Maple Leafs took advantage of Alex Ovechkin's absence to edge the Washington Capitals 2-1 on Thursday and extend the Southeast Division leaders' losing streak to three games.

Ovechkin, the NHL's leading goal scorer and reigning MVP, was whacked in the right foot by a puck during practice on Wednesday and was a late scratch for the Capitals.

"Alex is a big a difference-maker," said frustrated Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau, whose team have lost five of their last seven home games but still lead the division by 11 points over Florida.

"You can see that on the power play already. Just the attention people pay to Alex opens up other things."

Third-period goals by Lee Stempniak and Pavel Kubina gave the Leafs a 2-0 lead before Alexander Semin found the net for the Capitals with just 38 seconds remaining.

Washington appeared to be Stanley Cup contenders a month ago but is now searching for ways to recapture its early season form.

"The guys are holding their sticks really tight and not doing things that are natural to them," Boudreau said. "Consequently, we're not scoring.

"We're afraid of making a mistake. One of the players said the other day they were just so nervous in the game. This is game 64. If they're nervous now, what's going to happen in the third or fourth round (of the Stanley Cup playoffs)?"

Washington fired 38 shots at Martin Gerber, who was making his debut for the Leafs after being acquired off waivers from Ottawa.

"You're so pumped to be back and get another shot," said Gerber, who had not appeared in an NHL game since January 8. "You try to put everything out there. You do what you can. You can't do it alone. You need the whole team and tonight the team was great."

Washington hopes to have Ovechkin back for its next game tomorrow at home against Pittsburgh.

Boudreau said despite having a cosy lead in the division and the third-best record in the Eastern Conference, there is "no good time" to have a slump.

"Maybe if you're 15 points ahead of everybody in the overall league, and you decide to have it, that's one thing," he said. "Like Detroit did last year when they lost 11 out of 12.

"They had a 25-point lead at the time. We're not as safe."

In Philadelphia, Olli Jokinen got two goals in his first game for Calgary, and fellow trade-deadline addition Jordan Leopold also scored, leading the Flames to a 5-1 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers.

Jokinen, acquired from Phoenix, centered the top line for Calgary, who pushed their advantage atop the Northwest Division to 10 points.

In other action, it was: Wild 4, Sharks 3, OT; Coyotes 2, Bruins 1; Penguins 4, Panthers 1; Predators 4, Blue Jackets 2; Kings 5, Stars 4, OT; Senators 4, Oilers 2; and Rangers 4, Islanders 2.


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