Leafs wake up late to cap per­fect four-game trip, Matthews nets No. 10

Toronto Star - - SPORTS - MARK ZWOLINSKI SPORTS RE­PORTER

A huge ef­fort in the third pe­riod, both of­fen­sively and de­fen­sively, pushed the Maple Leafs to a 4-2 win in Wash­ing­ton on Satur­day night. If this was a mea­sur­ing-stick game for the Leafs, they’ll have con­cerns about their de­fen­sive-zone game but have to be pleased by a gutsy fin­ish. Josh Leivo broke a 2-2 tie on a power play, while Aus­ton Matthews rounded out the scor­ing into a gap­ing net with less than two min­utes to go. Kasperi Ka­pa­nen and Par Lind­holm had the other goals, and goalie Fred­erik An­der­sen turned in his best pe­riod of the year in the third. Toronto won all four road games this past week and sits at 5-1-0 to start the sea­son. Of­fen­sive stars: For the first time this sea­son, Matthews, Mitch Marner, John Tavares and Mor­gan Rielly didn’t dom­i­nate the score­sheet. Ka­pa­nen and Lind­holm got into good po­si­tion to tip in shots by de­fence­men. The Lind­holm and Leivo goals were just the third and fourth all sea­son with­out at least one of Matthews, Tavares and Marner on the ice. It was also Lind­holm’s first NHL marker, with backup goalie Gar­ret Sparks mak­ing sure he got the puck from the lines­man. Jake Gar­diner made a ter­rific shot­pass lead­ing to the Lind­holm tip-in … Con­nor Brown had his best game of the sea­son and was ex­cel­lent on the cy­cle game in the third pe­riod … Matthews, of course, could not be de­nied. He scored his 10th goal on his 21st shot.

De­fen­sive stars: Lind­holm broke up a great Wash­ing­ton scor­ing chance with a div­ing poke check in the sec­ond pe­riod, mo­ments af­ter a Leafs power play that did ev­ery­thing but put the puck in the net … Wash­ing­ton con­trolled the play (54 per cent) and held a 7-4 edge in high­dan­ger chances through two pe­ri­ods, though it seemed even larger. The Leafs de­fence, in other words, was short on star-cal­i­bre per­for­mances. An­der­sen was the dif­fer­ence maker.

Turn­ing point: Leivo’s go-ahead goal was his first of the sea­son af­ter a sum­mer of hard work, im­prov­ing his skat­ing strength in par­tic­u­lar. Leaf spe­cial teams came up with a huge penalty kill just af­ter Leivo’s goal.

Talk­ing point: The Leafs’ de­fen­sive­zone cov­er­age was loose and vul­ner­a­ble on too many oc­ca­sions. Wash­ing­ton’s tran­si­tion game and ef­fec­tive check­ing in the neu­tral zone pro­duced mul­ti­ple turnovers. Leaf de­fence­men were also caught way too deep in the of­fen­sive zone sev­eral times. Wash­ing­ton, the big­gest team in the NHL, made use of its size ad­van­tage (Nazem Kadri was hit, up­ended and slashed in the first pe­riod alone) while Evgeny Kuznetsov, who scored the sec­ond Caps goal, was the best player on the ice. He’s gen­er­at­ing buzz in Wash­ing­ton the same way peo­ple in Toronto are talk­ing up Matthews as the game’s best.

Take­aways: Ka­pa­nen looks like a keeper on the Matthews line. He’s had four solid games there and pro­duced five points. Ka­pa­nen’s speed is a game­break­ing as­set. The coach­ing staff wants him to re­trieve the puck more, but Ka­pa­nen should be a 20-goal scorer or bet­ter with his of­fen­sive gifts … Leivo — in a rare chance for the sec­ond power-play unit — found the net early in the third. The sec­ond unit was on the ice in part be­cause John Tavares took a nasty high stick to the face to draw the penalty. Over­all, the Leafs have eight goals on 17 chances with the man ad­van­tage.

Who’s next? The Leafs host the Los An­ge­les Kings on Mon­day night. Eight of their next 10 are at Sco­tia­bank Arena.

Cap­i­tals for­ward Tom Wil­son, serv­ing a 20-game sus­pen­sion for an il­le­gal check, will have his ap­peal hear­ing with NHL com­mis­sioner Gary Bettman on Thurs­day in New York City, ac­cord­ing to the play­ers’ as­so­ci­a­tion.

The union filed for an ap­peal on Wil­son’s be­half last Fri­day, and Bettman’s rul­ing won’t nec­es­sar­ily sig­nal the end of the process.

If the ban isn’t lifted by the com­mis­sioner, Wil­son can ap­peal to a neu­tral ar­bi­tra­tor — and play­ers have had more suc­cess with that route. Nashville for­ward Austin Wat­son re­cently had his 27-game ban for do­mes­tic abuse re­duced to 18 games by Shyam Das, the same ar­bi­tra­tor who would rule on Wil­son’s case — for a hit to the head of Blues for­ward Oskar Sundqvist, who is on long-term in­jured re­serve af­ter suf­fer­ing a con­cus­sion and shoul­der in­jury on the play — if it gets that far.

In 2016, Den­nis Wide­man was sus­pended 20 games for abuse of an of­fi­cial, and a neu­tral ar- bi­tra­tor cut it to 10. The process took a month and a half, though, and Wide­man had al­ready served 19 games by the time it was set­tled.

Wil­son’s ap­peal likely will fo­cus on the length of the pun­ish­ment rather than the le­gal­ity of the hit on Sundqvist.

PA­TRICK SMITH GETTY IM­AGES

Aus­ton Matthews waited un­til 18:21 of the third pe­riod to reach dou­ble dig­its in goals, beat­ing a sprawl­ing Braden Holtby to round out the scor­ing against the Caps.

NICK WASS THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Leafs goalie Fred­erik An­der­sen weath­ered the Caps’ storm in the third, when Josh Leivo pot­ted the win­ner.

NICK WASS THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS FILE PHOTO

Wash­ing­ton Cap­i­tals winger Tom Wil­son, a re­peat of­fender, skates off af­ter a high hit on the Blues’ Oskar Sundqvist, now on long-term in­jured re­serve, in pre-sea­son ac­tion.

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