Gerber stars in debut with Maple Leafs

WASHINGTON (Ticker) — Martin Gerber made 37 saves in his first
game with the new team on Thursday, pacing the Toronto Maple
Leafs to a 2-1 victory over the Washington Capitals.

Lee Stempniak and defenseman Pavel Kubina scored third-period
goals 3:42 apart as Toronto won for the fifth time in six games.

Gerber, who lost his starting job in Ottawa earlier this season,
was claimed off re-entry waivers Wednesday and made an instant
impact with the Maple Leafs.

“It was emotional – going through waivers once before and not
being picked up – I thought, ‘That’s probably going to be it,'”
Gerber said. “I talked with my family, ‘That might be it for us
over here.’ And finding out, well, some other team wants you to
play, that’s a great feeling.

“I was a bit nervous. It was emotional to come back and play.
I tried to keep it simple and play, and the guys did a great job
to bounce bodies away from the net.”

The Swiss netminder came 39 seconds away from his second shutout
of the season and 11th of his career, but Alexander Semin scored
with the Washington net empty, slicing the deficit in half.

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“Martin was unbelievable, but I’ve seen him play plenty of games
like that,” Toronto coach Ron Wilson said. “He was a little
lucky, but the defense did a good job in front of him clearing
rebounds. I’m just sad he didn’t get the shutout.”

The loss continued a disastrous homestand for the Capitals, who
have lost the first three games of a four-game stint at the
Verizon Center.

“They’re holding their sticks really tight and not doing things
that are natural to them, and consequently we’re not scoring,”
Washington coach Bruce Boudreau said.

This one came without superstar Alex Ovechkin. The reigning
Hart Trophy winner suffered a bruised heel when he was hit by a
shot off the stick of coach Dean Evason in practice Wednesday
and is listed as day-to-day.

“He’s a big difference-maker,” Boudreau said. “You can see on
the power play already, just the attention people pay to Alex,
it opens up other things, and they weren’t paying that attention
they normally do.”

Stempniak put Toronto ahead when he banked a shot off the right
skate of Washington goalie Jose Theodore 6:05 into the third.

Theodore, who missed Tuesday’s 5-2 loss to Carolina with the
flu, stopped 27 shots.