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Ovechkin, Capitals look to topple Maple Leafs

By Brett Huston

Stats Writer

Washington (45-23-6) at Toronto (30-30-13), 7 p.m. EDT

TORONTO (AP) -- The Washington Capitals have been a mediocre

offensive club in March, and a near shutout loss against the

Toronto Maple Leafs exemplified that.

Then again, Alex Ovechkin didn't play in that game.

The Capitals will have Ovechkin in the lineup Tuesday night in

Toronto, though, where they'll hope the NHL's leading goal

scorer can take advantage of the defensively-challenged Maple

Leafs.

Washington (45-23-6) was the Eastern Conference's second-highest

scoring team at the beginning of March, putting up 3.30 goals

per game through the first three-quarters of the season. In 11

games this month, however, the Capitals have averaged 2.36 goals

to rank second-to-last in the East.

Ovechkin, who has a league-high 50 goals, certainly hasn't been

void of blame. He scored 0.74 goals per game from October

through February, but has averaged just 0.50 goals this month.

Ovechkin managed only an assist on Saturday at Carolina, where

he mustered seven shots on Cam Ward but couldn't get one past

him in a 4-1 loss.

"We were really good in the first and then we started to turn

the puck over in the second and third," Caps coach Bruce

Boudreau said. "We made a couple of mistakes."

Washington couldn't get anything going offensively the last time

it faced the Maple Leafs (30-30-13), getting blanked until

Alexander Semin with 39 seconds left in a 2-1 loss on March 5 at

the Verizon Center. The Capitals, though, were without Ovechkin,

who was nursing a bruised heel.

That was only the sixth time this season Toronto limited its

opponent to one goal - it's yet to record a shutout - but

perhaps the Capitals will fare better with Ovechkin healthy.

He's scored six goals in his last six games against the Maple

Leafs, who allow an NHL-high 3.42 per game.

Toronto has been shoring up its defense somewhat in March,

however, yielding three goals per game. The Leafs were better

than that their last time out, holding down Montreal while

getting two goals and two assists from Alexei Ponikarovsky in a

5-2 road victory on Saturday.

Ponikarovsky's line combined for 11 points. Mikhail Grabovski

had a goal and three assists - including one on Jason Blake's

25th goal in the third - and Nikolai Kulemin had a goal and two

assists.

"The whole line was awesome tonight - skating, shooting,

passing, doing everything that they can do - and it was great to

see," said Blake, who scored his third goal in four games.

The Leafs have defended Washington well this season, allowing

seven goals in three games - two to Ovechkin - but it's been

their lack of offense that's resulted in them dropping two of

those. Toronto scored just once apiece in a pair of losses to

the Caps in December, including 2-1 on Dec. 6 at Air Canada

Centre.

Blake, the Leafs' leading scorer, hasn't recorded a point in his

last six games against Washington.

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