TORONTO | There are about 15 minutes between the end of a game and when Bruce Boudreau answers questions from the media. By the time he stood in front of the cameras Saturday night at Air Canada Centre, he had already received four phone calls.
Buoyed by two goals from a depleted defense - including Karl Alzner‘s first in the NHL - Boudreau’s Washington Capitals defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs 2-1, the coach’s first victory at this level in the city where he grew up.
“It was fun,” Boudreau said. “It was a good win. Half of [my buddies] were cursing and half of them were saying, ‘Good luck.’”
Alzner put the Caps in front 1:41 into the second period. The rookie intercepted a clearing attempt near the blue line and got some help from Alex Ovechkin, who screened Toronto goalie Vesa Toskala. A Maple Leafs fan growing up in Burnaby, British Columbia, Alzner scored his first NHL goal in front of his father, Gunther - who took a cross-country flight Saturday to be there.
“My gift for him was for him to come out and watch me play,” said Alzner, the fifth overall pick in the 2007 draft, who was playing in his sixth NHL game. “His favorite team growing up was the Leafs, so that was his gift.”
Toronto leveled the score 6:12 into the third period. The Maple Leafs took advantage of back-to-back penalties on Ovechkin; Nik Antropov made sure the second power play didn’t go to waste, scoring his 10th goal of the season.
A minute later, Milan Jurcina provided the winner with a blast from the right point at 7:12. It was the second goal of the season for Jurcina and, with an assist on the play, the second point of the night for Alzner.
Although four of the six regular defensemen sat out, Washington’s rearguards provided three of the team’s four points, one game after combining for five points in a 5-2 win against the New York Islanders.
“Secondary scoring - it is what you need,” Boudreau said.
A few seconds before Antropov’s tally, Caps netminder Brent Johnson made a great save to stop a shot redirected by Matt Stajan. Johnson had to stretch his right leg out to make the stop, and he stayed down for a few seconds while the action moved to the opposite end of the ice.
“My hip was just a little sore,” said Johnson, who turned aside 19 shots for his second straight win. “The ‘D’ and the forwards were exceptional tonight.”
It was the sixth straight game the Caps were without seven members of their season-opening roster - defensemen Mike Green (shoulder), Tom Poti (groin), Jeff Schultz (broken finger) and John Erskine (concussion) and forwards Alexander Semin (upper body), Sergei Fedorov (ankle) and captain Chris Clark (forearm stress fracture).
Tyler Sloan, an injury call-up from Hershey of the American Hockey League six weeks ago, was also unable to suit up, so Washington recalled Sean Collins to take his place. Collins, an undrafted free agent out of Ohio State, signed with the organization in 2007 and split last season between Hershey and South Carolina of the ECHL.
The injured list grew during the game. Forward Eric Fehr missed the final 30 minutes and is day-to-day with a shoulder injury. Washington put Semin on long-term injury reserve and Erskine on regular IR on Saturday, so there is an open roster spot for another call-up if Fehr can’t play Sunday at Carolina.
Toss in Brian Pothier, who has missed the whole season with post-concussion symptoms, and the injury list is 10 deep.
“I think a lot of guys are getting an opportunity to pick up some slack and show they can play and be successful out there,” Alzner said.