The Washington Capitals moved closer to a Stanley Cup Playoff berth and made sure the Toronto Maple Leafs couldn't clinch one.
Alex Ovechkin scored his NHL-leading 28th goal, and Martin Erat scored his first since being acquired at the trade deadline as the Capitals cruised to their eighth consecutive victory by defeating the Maple Leafs 5-1 at Verizon Center on Tuesday.
Though the Capitals are on their best hot streak in more than two years, coach Adam Oates wants to make sure his players don't get caught up in it.
"We honestly haven't talked about statistics, where we are, how many in a row, 'Man we're playing good,'" Oates said. "One of the things we talk about is that I expect those guys to be pros. You can enjoy it tonight for sure, it was a good game. Tomorrow we focus on Ottawa. Just like when it doesn't go our way, I don't want it to linger, we treat that as [professionals]."
Jack Hillen, Troy Brouwer and Marcus Johansson also scored for the Capitals (24-17-2), who stayed four points ahead of the Winnipeg Jets in the race for first place in the Southeast Division. Braden Holtby made 29 saves.
"It's always nice to get the two points and put the pressure on different teams," Ovechkin said. "For us, it's a big two points and we've got a hard road trip coming up. That's the kind of points we need."
The Capitals visit the Ottawa Senators on Thursday and the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday.
Mikhail Grabovski had the goal for Toronto (24-14-5), which came to Washington after Monday night's 2-0 home victory against the New Jersey Devils and remains fifth in the Eastern Conference with 53 points.
"We weren't very good, we didn't do a lot of things well," Toronto coach Randy Carlyle said. "We circled all night, we didn't play stop-and-go hockey, and it looked like we had nothing in the tank, nothing to give. It just seemed like we got worn down and we weren't playing anywhere near to the level on which was required in tonight's hockey game."
The Maple Leafs could have clinched their first playoff berth since 2004 with a victory and a loss by the Jets. But Washington never let Toronto get started.
The Capitals dominated the first period, outshooting the Maple Leafs 14-8, outhitting them 12-4 and opening the scoring at 14:27 when Hillen's shot from the left point hit the stick of Toronto forward Nazem Kadri and went past Ben Scrivens. It was Hillen's third goal of the season.
Erat, acquired from the Nashville Predators 13 days ago, made it 2-0 at 5:03 of the second period when he got his stick on a left-circle blast by Ovechkin and deflected it into the net. Brouwer added his 17th of the season at 7:55 when John Carlson's pass put him behind the defense and he made a deke before backhanding the puck through Scrivens' legs.
"Always a relief to get the first one with a new team," Erat said. "The most important thing is that we got the points."
Ovechkin's one-timer from a step inside the top of the left circle beat Scrivens at 13:59 for a power-play goal -- the first allowed by Toronto in 27 chances. It was his 18th goal in 16 games.
"You just try to give yourself the best chance to stop the puck," Scrivens said. "He's obviously got an unbelievable shot, a world-class shot, you've just got to try and give yourself the best chance to stop it.
"He's got a shot that's beaten a lot of goalies in this League so it's a challenge every time."
Grabovski's deflection of Ryan Hamilton's shot beat Holtby 3:05 into the third, but Johansson picked the carom of Mike Green's shot off the end boards and beat Scrivens at 10:58 for another power-play goal.
Unlike Saturday night, when the Capitals blew a 5-1 lead before winning 6-5 in overtime against the Tampa Bay Lightning, they didn't relax after taking a four-goal lead into the dressing room through 40 minutes.
"That's the way we talked after the second period," Ovechkin said. "We talked about 'Don't lose any focus, don't give them any opportunity to score goals, play safe and play for a win.'"
Toronto defenseman Mark Fraser is hopeful his team's poor showing was an aberration.
"We know the quality that we can play, we've done it all year," he said. "We haven't had big hiccups like this or mental lapses for a couple months. We can't afford to have it [happen] at this moment, especially with the postseason right around the corner."
Material from team media was used in this report
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