TORONTO – Will the real Toronto Maple Leafs please stand up?
Alexander Ovechkin scored his seventh and eighth goals of the season Monday night and the Washington Capitals pounded the enigmatic Maple Leafs 7-1 before an angry Air Canada Centre crowd of 19,316.
Brian Sutherby, Matt Bradley, Jeff Schultz, Matt Pettinger and Boyd Gordon all scored their first goals of the season for the Capitals (5-6-0) while centre Michael Nylander added three assists.
Alexei Ponikarovsky scored for the Leafs (5-5-3), who looked nothing like the squad that picked up impressive victories in Pittsburgh and Manhattan heading into Monday’s game. Instead, it was the defensively challenged edition of the Leafs that re-surfaced, featuring poor defensive zone coverage, sloppy play and stupid penalties.
The Leafs have now given up an NHL-high 51 goals on the season while continuing their poor play at home where they’ve won only three times in nine tries (3-4-2). They already have a pair of 7-1 homes losses on their docket, also getting routed by Carolina on Oct. 9.
The home fans didn’t hide their disappointment, soundly booing the Leafs as they left the ice both at the end of the second period and at the final buzzer and several times in-between. They also have goalie Andrew Raycroft, who replaced starter Vesa Toskala after Washington’s fourth goal, several mock cheers after easy saves in the second and third period.
By the time the third period started, at least one third of the Air Canada Centre was empty and one small section could be heard chanting “Let’s Go Raptors!”. The NBA season starts Wednesday for Toronto’s club.
Perhaps a return to the road is what’s needed for the Leafs and that’s just what’s on tap, a four-game set starting Friday at New Jersey followed by games Saturday at Montreal, next Tuesday at Ottawa and Friday, Nov. 9, at Buffalo.
It got ugly right in the opening period Monday. Gordon, standing alone in front of the net, re-directed a Bradley pass to make it 1-0 at 3:19. Ponikarvosky gave the home fans some false hope when he tied it 1-1 just 31 seconds later, only to see Pettinger give the Caps the lead for good at 5:26 when he flipped a rebound over Toskala on a Caps power play.
Ovechkin made it 3-1 at 11:57 when he rifled a wrist shot from the top of the faceoff circle right through Toskala’s glove side. Schultz was then allowed to skate into the slot untouched two minutes later and ring a shot off the post and in. The boos began and chased Toskala to the bench. His night was over, but he was hardly the worst player on the ice, his team outshot 13-3 to that point.
Bradley beat Raycroft with a slap shot while short-handed 8:57 into the second period to make it 5-1 and by now it was clear there would be no Leafs comeback on this night. Ovechkin made it 6-1 at 11:09 when his power-play blast from the point beat Raycroft five-hole – the Russian star’s ninth goal in nine career games against the Leafs.
Sutherby skated in alone at 6:17 of the third period and deked out Raycroft to complete the massacre.
Veteran Olaf Kolzig earned the win in goal for Washington, stopping 31 shots.
Notes: Both teams were missing key components. Caps Captain Chris Clark sustained a severely lacerated left ear when he was struck by an Ovechkin shot last Friday night. Star winger Alexander Semin is day-to-day after aggravating his sprained right ankle against St. Louis on Saturday. Defenceman Tom Poti (groin) was also out … Forwards Kyle Wellwood (groin) and Darcy Tucker (knee) and defencemen Carlo Colaiacovo (knee) and Bryan McCabe (groin) remained out for the Leafs.