Capitals run win streak to 5 with road win at Maple Leafs
TORONTO — The Capitals faced the Maple Leafs' backup goaltender on Saturday night. As if things hadn't been going well enough.
Jason Chimera had a goal and an assist and Washington beat Jonathan Bernier and Toronto 4-2 for its fifth consecutive victory.
Tom Wilson, Marcus Johansson and Justin Williams also scored, Braden Holtby made 32 saves and the Capitals improved to 7-2-0 on the road and 17-5-1 overall.
Chimera's goal was a knuckler, Wilson scored after an ugly miscue by Toronto and Johansson's goal was of the pinball variety. Bernier had no chance on Williams' snapshot that put the game out of reach just past the midway point of the second period.
"Sometimes it's real tough for those goaltenders," Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. "We didn't have a lot of shots and it's hard for a goalie mentally. He wants to grab the puck and get some action and we didn't really give him any early."
It was the third straight loss for last-place Toronto. Bernier made 19 saves in his first start in nearly two weeks — starter James Reimer sat with a lower-body injury.
Fair or not, he'll be an easy target for criticism in Toronto. He did not look sharp after and his positional play was suspect at times. Rust may have been a factor, but Bernier was simply not up to the task and his coach was not impressed with the overall performance.
"You can't give up four in the National Hockey League and win," Mike Babcock said. "It's just impossible. We've got to find a way to win games. It didn't work in that area tonight. We've got to find a way to bounce back, to not lose energy and to get back playing."
Peter Holland and Leo Komarov scored for Toronto.
The Capitals played their second game in two nights and appeared sluggish early. They made a number of sloppy passes and Toronto took advantage to pull even after Chimera's goal.
Holland cut off a pass to give the Leafs possession in the Washington end. Dion Phaneuf chipped the puck on goal from a bad angle and Holland one-timed the rebound through traffic at 6:13.
Toronto outshot Washington 16-4 in the opening period.
The Capitals came out with more jump in the second and pulled ahead at 4:06 on an ugly goal that deflated the crowd of 19,053. Defenseman Morgan Rielly overskated the puck and left it in the goalmouth area for Wilson to bank in off Bernier's pad for his first goal of the season.
With John Carlson off for interference, the Maple Leafs pulled even when Komarov tipped Phaneuf's one-timer from the point at 6:26. It was his eighth goal of the campaign.
Washington answered with a power-play goal at 11:08 after Nazem Kadri's high-sticking penalty. Alex Ovechkin took a slap shot from the faceoff circle that deflected off Roman Polak's stick and Johansson's left knee before crossing the line.
The Capitals' power play struck again at 13:26. With Phaneuf off for interference, Chimera did the grunt work along the boards before getting a pass to Williams, and he snapped it into the top corner past a frozen Bernier for his seventh goal of the season.
The crowd let out a Bronx cheer after Bernier's next save. He fell to 0-8-1 this season with a 3.28 goals-against average and .888 save percentage.
"I've got to be better," said Bernier.
The Maple Leafs were well-rested after a five-day break and pressed early in the third, but Holtby was up to the task.
With Ovechkin in the penalty box for cross-checking, Toronto hit the post twice on the power play but couldn't cut into the lead. The Maple Leafs outshot the Capitals 33-23.
Reimer was injured last Tuesday at practice and was back on the ice Friday but didn't participate in the game-day skate on Saturday. It wasn't clear if he'd be ready to return for a home game Monday against the Edmonton Oilers. Toronto called up netminder Garret Sparks from its AHL affiliate earlier in the day to serve as a backup. ... Holland has four goals on the season while Chimera hiked his total to seven. ... With Sparks getting the call-up, the Maple Leafs sent defenseman Scott Harrington down to the Marlies. ... Reimer is 7-3-4 with a 2.01 goals-against average and .936 save percentage this season. Bernier entered play with a 3.17 GAA and .895 save percentage.