WASHINGTON – A little desperation was the perfect motivation for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Mikhail Grabovski scored the lone shootout goal, and the Maple Leafs rallied from three goals down in the third period to beat the Washington Capitals 5-4 on Monday night.
“We battled back,” Toronto forward Colby Armstrong said. “I don’t think we played our best game, for sure, (but) we came in and stole two points.”
Jonas Gustavsson was perfect in the tiebreaker, making Grabovski’s goal stand up as the winner. Toronto has won two straight, both by shootout.
Grabovski skated in on Michal Neuvirth, pivoted in front of the crease and, with his back to the net, scored with a backhanded shot at the right post.
“It’s two small steps in the right direction,” said Gustavsson, who made 32 saves. “We can’t be happy with this, but it shows a lot of character coming back in games, working hard, no matter what the scoreboard (says).”
Washington carried a 4-1 lead into the third period, but Grabovski, Tim Brent and Clarke MacArthur all had goals to get the Maple Leafs even. Brent and MacArthur scored 59 seconds apart, with MacArthur tying it with 1:24 left in regulation.
“Washington got a little sloppy toward the end,” Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson said. “I think they thought the game was over.”
Mathieu Perreault had his first career two-goal game for Washington. Alex Ovechkin and Mike Knuble also scored as the Capitals matched a season high with their third straight loss.
“Losing a game like this is pretty bad for us,” said Ovechkin, who has scored in two straight games after going nine games without a goal. “It’s a lesson.”
MacArthur scored twice and Grabovski had a goal and an assist for the Maple Leafs.
Perreault, recalled from Hershey of the AHL so he could get work as a second-line centre, had his second multipoint effort in four games with Washington. He was one of the unsuccessful Capitals in the shootout.
“It shows they have confidence in me and can play me in the big situation,” he said.
Washington coach Bruce Boudreau liked Perreault’s energy, but was unhappy following the Capitals’ collapse.
“It’s not supposed to happen,” Boudreau said.
The Capitals took a 1-0 lead 2:55 in when Perreault deflected defenceman Tom Poti’s shot from the left point past Gustavsson.
Toronto exploited a poor clearing attempt by Karl Alzner to tie the game midway through the first. Nikolai Kulemin intercepted the puck and fed MacArthur, who scored his eighth goal by beating Neuvirth with a wrist shot during a power play.
The tie lasted only a little over three minutes, until Knuble batted in his own rebound from between the circles at 14:58 while the Maple Leafs’ Francois Beauchemin served a slashing penalty.
Perreault made it 3-1 at 6:46 of the second period. Left alone in the left circle, Perreault took a pass from Brooks Laich, hesitated and then snapped a hard shot that whizzed past Gustavsson.
Ovechkin scored his 12th goal at 13:50 of the second, ripping a shot from the top of the left circle.
Grabovski scored with 15:44 remaining in regulation to cut Toronto’s deficit to 4-2.
With 2:23 left, Tomas Kaberle swept a shot through traffic from just inside the blue-line that was tipped inside the right post by Brent.
MacArthur then tied it with his second of the game.
Notes: Capitals D Jeff Schultz sustained a fractured thumb in the second period and will be sidelined four-to-six weeks. … Perreault had two assists against Atlanta on Oct. 23 in his first game of the season with Washington. … Poti returned to the Capitals lineup after missing two games because of a groin injury and had three assists. D John Erskine (undisclosed injury) was scratched for a second straight game. … MacArthur’s goal marked the first time in seven games the Capitals yielded one in the first period. … Knuble has scored 249 NHL goals.