Leafs' offense on rise ahead of visit to Washington
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The Toronto Maple Leafs visit the Washington Capitals on Wednesday riding a brief two-game winning streak that has been fueled by an impressive offense.
Toronto scored four goals in the second period Tuesday in a 4-2 victory over the visiting Minnesota Wild, and the Maple Leafs netted five goals in their previous game. That firepower should give Washington a test, as the Capitals have been struggling on defense and in areas such as forechecking.
In the Tuesday win, Maple Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly tied a franchise record with four assists in the middle period -- getting a helper on each goal -- while Mitchell Marner contributed a goal and two assists.
The Maple Leafs announced that with his third assist of the night, Rielly became the 29th player in team history to reach 200 helpers.
The four goals came in the first 13:05 of the period and turned the game around, something that coach Mike Babcock enjoyed seeing.
"The first 15 minutes of that second period was real good," he said. "It was a good 15 minutes for us. We played right. It was good."
The Leafs got strong play from their third and fourth lines Saturday during a 5-2 win over the Detroit Red Wings, a result that snapped a three-game losing streak. After the win against Minnesota, Babcock told the media that his fourth line played well for the second straight game on Tuesday.
If that continues, it would give the Leafs' offense even more punch since Toronto's top two lines feature productive players such as Auston Matthews, who ranks second in NHL with seven goals.
The Maple Leafs made a move on Monday, recalling defenseman Kevin Gravel from the Toronto Marlies of the American Hockey League. Defenseman Rasmus Sandin was loaned to the Marlies.
Toronto next goes up against a Washington defense that has struggled this season, much as it did in last year's playoffs. The Capitals come play Wednesday having lost four of their last five, including two overtime defeats. Plus, the Caps gave up six goals in two of their past three games.
Overall, the Capitals simply have not played well enough during the first part of this season. They can't seem to bring everything together.
That's why, the Washington Post reported, coach Todd Reirden shook up the lines throughout a 6-3 home loss to the Colorado Avalanche on Monday.
The Capitals gave up four goals in the first period of that game, and while they played better in the second and third periods at times, they still couldn't put everything together. Goalie Braden Holtby gave up goals on the first three shots of the game, and Reirden yanked him in favor of rookie Ilya Samsonov.
Washington can't seem to find the way to get all units playing well at the same time.
"You can lose hockey games and still play all right," center Nicklas Backstrom said to the Post. "But I think we were playing really poorly when we lost, and that's just -- we just got to change the mentality."
After his poor outing Monday, Holtby (1-1-2, 4.27 goals-against average) may or may not be back in net Wednesday. Since the defense has struggled, the Caps need the goalie to be solid.
One thing that will help the defense in the coming days is return of Michal Kempny. Reirden said Tuesday that Kempny, who has been out since late last season with a hamstring injury that required surgery, could be back for the Friday game against the New York Rangers but that he will miss the Toronto game.
--Field Level Media
Updated October 16, 2019