Toronto Maple Leafs Darcy Tucker celebrates his goal against the Washington Capitals during second period NHL action in Toronto on Tuesday. (CP/Frank Gunn)
A 3-0 victory over the Washington Capitals on Tuesday night lifted Toronto even with Carolina at 73 points. The Leafs get eighth because they've played one game less than the Hurricanes. They also get the Senators on Thursday and again Saturday.
Toronto was in dire need of two points when the collapsing Capitals crept into town. Buried in 14th place in the 15-team East, they're going nowhere. They'd won only one of their previous 10 games, were 2-12-1 in their previous 15 road games, and they started AHL call-up Frederic Cassivi, who hadn't posted an NHL goaltending win since February 2003.
It all appeared to add up to a decisive Toronto win and, after a dull first period without a goal, that's exactly what happened.
Darcy Tucker, Yanic Perreault and Alexei Ponikarovsky scored the goals and Andrew Raycroft stopped 24 shots for his second shutout this season and fifth of his career before an announced Air Canada Centre crowd of 19,531.
Alexander Ovechkin and Alexander Semin were scoring threats most times they were on the ice with Kris Beech but the Leafs had nothing to worry about beyond that one line.
Tucker opened the scoring at 3:08 of the second. Toronto couldn't score during a two-man advantage for 80 seconds from the start of the period, but Tucker put a puck behind Cassivi shortly after the teams returned to even strength. Cassivi stopped a John Pohl shot and the puck caromed in off Tucker's right arm. It was his 20th goal of the season, and first since Dec. 16 - just before he broke his left foot. This was only the right-winger's second game back in the lineup.
Perreault got his 20th goal, and his first in this his third stint with the Leafs, at 14:39. Chad Kilger flipped the puck off the boards to get it behind defenceman Milan Jurcina. Perreault raced in to get it and had an open alley to Cassivi. Perreault swooped across the front of the crease, pulled the puck to his backhand and neatly tucked it into the open side of the net.
Ponikarovsky got his 18th at 2:47 of the third by deflecting in a Nik Antropov slapshot.
Notes: Toronto had a 31-24 shots advantage . . . Both teams were 0-for-5 on power plays . . . C Mats Sundin remained two goals shy of Darryl Sittler's club-record 389 . . . D Pavel Kubina, who had missed the five previous games with a broken finger, was back in the Leafs lineup . . . F Kyle Wellwood, out since Dec. 20 and rehabbing from hernia surgery, is eyeing next Tuesday for his return . . . Washington was without LW Matt Pettinger, who broke his right thumb Thursday . . . The Leafs have 15 games left. After the two against Ottawa, Toronto is home Tuesday against Tampa Bay.