Ward gives Capitals win over Toronto

Ward gives Capitals win over Toronto
January 10, 2014, 10:00 pm
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Wilson, Erskine drop the gloves in 2 big-time tilts

(Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports)

Instant analysis of the Capitals’ 3-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs Friday night at Verizon Center:

How it happened: Joel Ward scored 11:51 into the third period and Michal Neuvirth turned aside 32 of 34 shots to earn first star of the game and give the Capitals a hard-fought 3-2 win.

What it means: After losing four in a row the Caps have won two straight and are now 22-16-6 for 50 points. They are third in the Metro Division, tied with the Flyers in points.

How they scored: After a scoreless first period, Alex Ovechkin opened the scoring with his 32nd goal of the season at the 6:39 mark off nice passes from Mike Green and Mikhail Grabovski. The Leafs tied it 2:29 later on James van Riemsdyk’s redirect of Phil Kessel’s shot, then took a 2-1 lead when Kessel beat Michal Neuvirth high short side 54 seconds into the third period. Nicklas Backstrom knotted the score at 2 when he stripped Toronto defenseman Cody Franson of the puck behind the net, then banked a pass intended for Brooks Laich off the skate of Jay McClement for his 11th goal of the season.

[RELATED VIDEO: Capitals and Maple Leafs come to blows on Friday night]

Fight night: Tom Wilson and John Erskine won a pair of heavyweight fights late in the second period. Wilson agreed to fight Carter Ashton after a faceoff and drilled him with several hard uppercuts and overhand rights. Five seconds later Erskine went at it with Colton Orr and, after getting his helmet knocked off, floored Orr with a hard right.

Hot Oates: Adam Oates was furious earlier in the second period when John Erskine received a double minor for roughing and Dion Phaneuf received just two minutes for roughing. During their exchange, Erskine gave Phaneuf a face wash and took a punch to the face.

Look ahead: The Caps continue their three-game homestand Sunday afternoon against the Buffalo Sabres, when [fill in the blank] will be in goal. They conclude their home stretch Tuesday night against the San Jose Sharks, then head to Pittsburgh to face the Penguins on Wednesday.