|Hot Maple Leafs host revitalized Capitals|
TORONTO -- The Toronto Maple Leafs got away with one Friday night against the Carolina Hurricanes, eking out a 5-4 victory on the road because goaltender Frederik Andersen was superb.
They will have to be on their game Saturday night when they host the Washington Capitals, who were impressive in their 3-1 victory Friday over the Tampa Lightning, the team with the best record in the NHL, at Capital One Arena.
The Maple Leafs were much less impressive.
"Some nights they're ugly," Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock said. "(Detroit Red Wings general manager) Kenny Holland always used to say, it'll be a Picasso in the morning when you look at the standings. That's what it is. They were quicker and jumped better than us. Obviously, we scored some good goals and some timely goals, but Freddie was the main event for sure."
The Capitals have won two games in a row and will have a chance to avenge a 2-0 loss to the Maple Leafs in Washington on Oct. 17. Washington eliminated Toronto in the playoffs last season.
The Maple Leafs (15-8-1) were outshot 47-25 on Friday and the Hurricanes had a 91-39 advantage in shot attempts.
The Maple Leafs have been prone to slow starts recently. They were sluggish at the start again Friday but escaped the first period with game at 0-0 and then led 4-1 after the second period. Babcock said the slow beginnings are a concern.
"We're just going to talk about it and fix it," he said. "Players aren't happy, I'm not happy, so we'll fix that. You don't want to play catchup -- now, we didn't and sometimes on the road especially, you've got to weather the storm early in the first 10 minutes. That wasn't weathering, that was just getting beat to the puck."
Washington left winger Alex Ovechkin notched his 15th goal of the season Friday to tie Mike Bossy at 573 on the NHL's all-time scoring list.
Center Nicklas Backstrom and Ovechkin were reunited on a line in the 5-2 victory over the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday after playing on separate lines for the first 22 games. Combining with right winger Tom Wilson, they again had a strong game Friday.
"We just continued pushing," Ovechkin said. "We moved our legs. We did the right things."
Ovechkin has a goal in each of the past two games after going six games without one.
Backstrom assisted on Ovechkin's goal. He has had the assist on 219 of Ovechkin goals (38.2 percent) in his career.
Wilson recorded his second assist in the past three games and had eight hits, a team high this season.
Washington backup goaltender Philipp Grubauer earned his first win in his sixth start of the season, which means Braden Holtby will get the start against the Maple Leafs.
Usually, Grubauer starts the second game of back-to-back sets, but Capitals coach Barry Trotz said he felt the backup "deserved" a home start.
"The team did unbelievable," Grubauer said. "If we play like this the whole year, we are going to be really tough to beat."
The Capitals (13-10-1) have won seven of their past eight home games.
"If we put in the work night in and night out, we will have success," Trotz said. "If we don't, we won't. This league will test you. You can't cut corners."
It is likely that the Capitals will face Maple Leafs reserve goaltender McElhinney on Saturday.
Toronto left winger Matt Martin did not suit up for the game Friday, but is expected to be in the lineup Saturday.
Maple Leafs center Nazem Kadri had an assist Friday and has at least one point in nine straight games -- five goals and five assists.
"I think early on in games we need to flip the table and start getting our game going right from the drop of the puck," said Toronto center Patrick Marleau, who scored a goal Friday. "We've talked about it and we've got (Saturday) to try and get it going the right way."