Maple Leafs-Capitals Preview
The Toronto Maple Leafs just can't get the job done at home. It's been a different story on the road.
Toronto looks to match its best road start since 1998-99 on Tuesday night when it faces the slumping Washington Capitals for the second time in less than a week.
After picking up their first home points of the season on Thursday with a 3-2 win over Washington (2-6-1), the Maple Leafs (4-5-0) closed out their three-game stretch at Air Canada Centre with a 1-0 loss to Boston on Saturday and a 4-1 loss to Carolina on Monday.
"We can play for stretches in this building but it seems that when it starts to go the other way on us we don't seem to be able to pick ourselves back up and say, 'Hey stop it.' This is what we've got to do to correct it,'' said coach Randy Carlyle, whose team is averaging 1.8 goals while compiling a 1-4-0 home record.
Toronto, though, is scoring 3.3 goals per game while going 3-1-0 as the road team.
The Maple Leafs have dropped five of six at Washington, but this Capitals team has an Eastern Conference-low five points. Washington is surrendering 3.7 goals per game and is last in the NHL in goal differential at minus-12.
"Like has been the case for most of the season, we get scored on in bunches and we just can't recover," Troy Brouwer told the Capitals' official website after the club allowed three consecutive goals in a 7:03 stretch of the second period in Sunday's 6-3 home loss to Pittsburgh.
Getting outscored 13-6 in the second period is a big concern for rookie coach Adam Oates, but the final 20 minutes was Washington's downfall on Thursday when Nikolai Kulemin and Matt Frattin scored unanswered goals to help Toronto end a three-game losing streak in this series.
Oates wouldn't confirm whether Michal Neuvirth would return to net after Braden Holtby had another tough outing Sunday with six goals allowed. Whomever is in the crease better know where Frattin is on the ice. Since being called up from the AHL on Jan. 24, the forward has five goals and two assists in six games after finding the back of the net on Monday.
Toronto is still waiting for Phil Kessel to break his season-long goal-scoring drought. Stuck at 99 goals since joining the Maple Leafs in 2009, Kessel has two scores in 10 career games at Washington.
Capitals two-time MVP Alex Ovechkin, who tallied his second goal of the season Thursday, had six scores and 12 assists in an eight-game home point streak against the Maple Leafs before being held off the scoresheet in their last visit, a 2-0 Capitals victory on March 11.
James Reimer, who made 22 saves on Thursday for his first victory in four starts against Washington, could be in net for a sixth straight game. His hope is that the club's three-game, five-day trip to Washington, Winnipeg and Montreal goes better than the just-completed homestand.
"I'm not quite sure what the reason is (why we struggle at home) and I don't know if anybody does have the reason," Reimer said Monday after making 35 saves. "It's the million-dollar question and we don't like it. We don't like it one bit. This is where we want to win.''
If Toronto doesn't win Tuesday, it will be its first three-game losing streak of the season.