Instant analysis: Capitals 4, Maple Leafs 2

Instant analysis: Capitals 4, Maple Leafs 2
March 16, 2014, 5:45 pm
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(Paul Frederiksen-USA TODAY Sports)

How it happened: The Caps dominated the first period, grabbing a 3-0 lead on power-play goals by Troy Brouwer [19th] and Joel Ward [20th] and an even-strength goal by Jason Chimera [13th], but the Maple Leafs roared back, getting a late goal from Troy Bodie in the first period and another by captain Dion Phaneuf in the second to claw within 3-2. The Caps’ penalty killers were outstanding in the second period, killing off three Toronto power plays and Jaroslav Halak was outstanding down the stretch, stopping 27 of 29 shots for his third victory on five games since coming to Washington in the March 5 trade deadline trade for Michal Neuvirth. Brouwer banked a puck off the boards and down the ice for an empty-netter and his 20th goal. Nicklas Backstrom screened off Maple Leafs defenseman Dion Phaneuf to allow the puck to slide into the empty net.

What it means: The Caps drew within two points of the New York Rangers for the final wild card spot with 13 games remaining. When the Caps’ game ended, the Rangers were trailing the San Jose Sharks 1-0.

Line juggling: The circus is in town this week, but Adam Oates gave an early preview by juggling his lines. [Sorry]. After the top line of Marcus Johansson, Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin went a combined minus-6 through two periods, Oates moved Jay Beagle onto the top line and dropped Backstrom onto a second line with LW Evgeny Kuznetsov and RW Troy Brouwer. Center Case Wellman, who started the game on the second line, dropped to a fourth line with LW Dustin Penner and RW Tom Wilson.

Magic Three: The Caps improved to 32-5-5 when scoring three or more goals. They are 0-22-5 when scoring less than three.

Look ahead: The Caps will try to become the first NHL team this season to sweep a three-game set against the California trio of Anaheim, L.A. and San Jose when they visit those three cities on Tuesday,Thursday and Saturday.