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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.

"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.

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