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Maple Leafs @ Washington Capitals 10/03/09

1st period Overview:

The Capitals opened up the season against the Boston Bruins on Thursday night where they left off the 2008-2009 season with a 4-1 victory. Their fire didn’t stop during their home opener tonight against the Maple Leafs as reigning back-to-back NHL MVP Alexander Ovechkin ignited the raucous Verizon Center crowd with his third goal of the season just 1:17 into the contest. Chants of MVP quickly ensued from the home fans.

The intensity only increased when former enemy Mike Knuble made his first goal as a Washington Capital with 10:48 left in the period with his patented close-range goal while center Brooks Laich added the third goal of the game on a breakaway with 6:07 remaining, giving him his third goal on the season.

Goalie Semyon Varlamov has performed up to his postseason standards, looking very similar to his opening round performance against the New York Rangers, accumulating 10 saves so far.

Toronto, who finished last season in last place in the Northeast Division, does not looked much improved so far, while the Capitals are firing on all cylinders with a lethal combination of a quick-striking offense and a steel wall at goaltender.

On a night in which the 2008-2009 Southeast Division Championship banner was lowered, there has been plenty for Capitals fans to cheer about so far in the first period of home action.

Shots on goal: Maple Leafs 8 – Capitals 10
Power play goals: Maple Leafs 0 – Capitals 1
Hits: Maple Leafs 12 – Capitals 12

1st Period Score: Maple Leafs 0 – Capitals 3

2nd Period Overview:

The Maple Leafs came out with a new goaltender, Jonas Gustavson replacing Vesa Toskala in the net, and aggressive on offense, spending most of the beginning of the period in the Capitals zone, pressuring Washington’s defense and Semyon Varlamov to make a mistake. Toronto had many rebound oppurtunities following shots on Varlamov but didn’t have anyone to put it in. The pressure paid off for the Leafs, however, when Lee Stempniak tallied his first goal on the season at the 4:23 mark.

Newcomer Brendan Morrison contributed his first points as a Capitals with his 176th career goal at the 9:18 mark but offensively the period belonged to left winger Alexander Semin, who scored his first two goals of the season with 14:33 and 3:58 left.

While the Leafs entered the period with a newfound energy, the Capitals were able to neutralize it quickly with tough defense and a quick response in the scoring department. Probably the most encouraging thing about this game is the amount of production the team is getting from anyone not named Ovechkin, most notably Laich and Semin. Ovechkin is passing the puck around very well, keeping opponent’s heads on a swivel. Semin may become the biggest beneficiary from Ovechkin’s passing.

Shots on goal: Maple Leafs 15 – Capitals 12
Power play goals: Maple Leafs 0 – Capitals 0
Hits: Maple Leafs 3 – Capitals 7

2nd Period Score: Maple Leafs 1 – Capitals 6

3rd Period Overview:

For the second straight period, the Maple Leafs struck first, this time with Alexei Ponikarovsky scoring his second and third goals within the first six minutes to cut Caps lead in half, 6-3. Toronto’s offensive aggression and persistance paid off early in the third due to their heightened sense of urgency to put points on the board heading into the final period.

The Capitals haven’t skipped a beat offensively from last year but tonight, their defense relented late in the game but that will almost certainly be something that Coach Bruce Boudreau will address this week.

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