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Woll solid, Giordano scores as Leafs top Caps 5-1

TORONTO – Joseph Woll made 24 saves in a bounceback performance and Mark Giordano scored following a long injury absence as the Toronto Maple Leafs cruised past the Washington Capitals 5-1 on Thursday.

Tyler Bertuzzi, with two goals to give him six in his last seven games, Conner Dewar and Bobby McMann provided the rest of the offence for Toronto (41-22-9).

Nic Dowd replied for Washington (36-27-9). Charlie Lindgren stopped 43 shots.

Woll was solid after giving up a goal on the first shot in his last two starts, including Tuesday’s ugly 6-3 loss to the New Jersey Devils that left head coach Sheldon Keefe fuming at the entire roster’s “immature” performance.

The Leafs entered play just two points up on the Tampa Bay Lightning, who are 8-1-1 over their last 10 contests, for third in the Atlantic Division with a game in hand.

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The Capitals, meanwhile, started the night in the Eastern Conference’s second wild-card spot, two points ahead of the Detroit Red Wings with a game in hand.

Toronto sniper Auston Matthews, who leads the NHL with 59 goals, suited up despite missing the morning skate with an illness.

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The Leafs were, however, minus plenty of talent. Top-line winger Mitch Marner sat out a ninth straight game with a high ankle sprain, while defencemen Morgan Rielly (upper body), Timothy Liljegren (upper body) and Joel Edmundson (undisclosed) were also sidelined.

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Washington star Alex Ovechkin hit the Scotiabank Arena ice with 18 goals over his last 25 games to sit 46 back of Wayne Gretzky’s all-time mark of 894 after scoring just eight times over the season’s first 43 contests.

Playing for the first time since suffering a concussion Feb. 29, Giordano fired home his second goal of the season — and first in 31 games — at 10:09 of the opening period.

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The league’s oldest player in 2023-24 at age 40, the veteran blueliner pointed to the sky in celebration after his father, Paul, died suddenly last month.

Woll had to be sharp later in the period when he outwaited Nick Jensen on the doorstep.

Ripped by Keefe on Tuesday when their structure completely fell apart following a 25-shot first period, the Leafs were more connected through all three zones and fired 19 pucks at Lindgren through 20 minutes.

Bertuzzi made it 2-0 just 18 seconds into the second when he banked in his 17th off the Washington netminder, but Dowd got that one back when he tipped home his 10th at 5:27.

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Dewar restored Toronto’s two-goal advantage when he backhanded his 11th — and first with the Leafs since being acquired from the Minnesota Wild at the NHL trade deadline — at 11:38 before Lindgren robbed Matthews of his 60th goal late in the period.

McMann put the home side up 4-1 at 1:06 of the third on a shot that Lindgren stopped at full stretch before the puck ricocheted in off Jenson.

Bertuzzi added his 18th off a turnover at 10:11.

CARBERY, SANDIN RETURN

Washington head coach Spencer Carbery and defenceman Rasmus Sandin returned to Scotiabank Arena for the first time since leaving Toronto last year.

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Sandin was traded to the Capitals ahead of the 2023 trade deadline. Carbery, who spent two seasons as a Toronto assistant, was hired by Washington in May.

“Always appreciated being in this organization,” Carbery said of the Leafs. “The pressure that came along with it … means you were doing something important.”

HALL CALL

Keefe, who grew up in the Toronto suburb of Brampton, was announced as one of six 2024 inductees into the city’s sports hall of fame this week.

UP NEXT

Toronto: Visits the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday.

Washington: Visits the Boston Bruins on Saturday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 28, 2024.

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&© 2024 The Canadian Press

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