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Leafs snap three-game skid with 4-2 win over Capitals

Toronto Maple Leafs forward Connor Brown (12) rushes the puck between Washington Capitals defenceman Dmitry Orlov (9) and forward Marcus Johansson (90) in the second period at Air Canada Centre in Toronto on Nov. 26, 2016.

Dan Hamilton/USA Today Sports

Mitch Marner set up a pair of goals and Auston Matthews scored for the second straight game as the Toronto Maple Leafs ended a three-game losing streak with a 4-2 win over the Washington Capitals on Saturday night.

Marner set up goals from Matt Martin and James van Riemsdyk, while Matthews notched his first goal at home in more than a month and second in as many games. Andersen came close to his first shutout in a Leafs uniform, beaten twice on 35 shots in Toronto's first victory in more than a week (Nov. 17) and eighth in 11 games at home (8-3-0).

Nazem Kadri added his ninth goal of the year.

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Braden Holtby was sharp for the Capitals, still yielding four goals on 37 shots for Washington (13-6-2). Nicklas Backstrom and Marcus Johansson both scored in defeat.

Off since a Wednesday night shootout loss in New Jersey and facing a Washington squad playing their third game in four nights, the Leafs appeared the much fresher team in the early-going. They owned the bulk of the opening frame, the action taking place almost entirely in the Capitals end.

Martin opened the scoring less than three minutes in when he snuck behind the Washington tandem of John Carlson and Dmitry Orlov and beat Holtby for his second goal of the season and second in as many games. The 27-year-old, who went the first 19 games of the year without a goal, was set up beautifully on the play by Marner, the 19-year-old firing a dart from one blue-line to the other for his 17th point of the season.

The Leafs kept it coming after the goal, outshooting the Capitals 12-1 at one point in the first while drawing three power plays. They came close to beating Holtby once more, but the reigning Vezina Trophy winner stood his ground, turning aside the final 12 shots of the period while also getting help from the post (twice).

Even-strength shot attempts, tellingly, favoured the Leafs 16-6 after the first.

The home side grabbed their fourth power play of the game moments into the second when Peter Holland gained a step on Capitals defenceman Karl Alzner, held as he broke free for an opportunity on Holtby. Holland was in the lineup for only his eighth game this year because 20-year-old rookie William Nylander was sidelined with an upper body injury (day-to-day).

With the power play it was Marner again showing his skill. He dropped a soft pass into the slot for fellow rookie Nikita Soshnikov and while his attempt was denied, the puck landed right in front of van Riemsdyk. He promptly flipped the puck over Holtby's left pad for his team-leading ninth goal this year (tied with Kadri) and first on the power play.

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Marner added his second assist of the night on the play and 18th point of the season, matching van Riemsdyk for the team lead and Patrik Laine for the overall rookie scoring mark. He has six multi-point outings in his first 21 NHL games.

Toronto got in and out of trouble a short while later. With Zach Hyman already in the box for holding, Leo Komarov was then whistled for hooking, giving the Capitals a 24-second five-on-three advantage. The Leafs managed to kill off both penalties though and escape unharmed.

Holtby continued to perform throughout a more evenly-played second, countered at the other end by Andersen. The Leafs No. 1 stopped Taylor Chorney streaking down the right side with a glove save and then turned aside both Matt Niskanen and Backstrom on another Capitals man advantage.

Marner continued to dazzle otherwise. After blocking a Justin Williams shot and hobbling off the bench the Thornhill, Ont., native then returned to make another eye-catching play. With puck in tow and Johansson trailing, Marner circled around the net, cut back through the slot to where he started and then flung a pass to Tyler Bozak, his attempt just above the goal-line denied by Holtby.

Matthews padded the Leafs lead to three 22 seconds into the third when he blasted a Matt Hunwick rebound for his ninth goal of the year. The 19-year-old ended a 13-game goal drought on Wednesday night, scoring for the second straight game on Saturday. It was his first goal at the Air Canada Centre since Oct. 25.

Kadri added a fourth Leafs goal on a breakaway.

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Andersen made maybe his best stop of the game near the midway point of the final period, stretching to snatch Carlson's attempt with his glove. The Capitals defenceman appeared to have an open cage to shoot at.

Backstrom ended his shutout bid a short while later, stuffing a shot into the goal on a scramble around the net. The 27-year-old, beaten late by Johansson as the Capitals mounted a comeback, still improved to 7-4-0 this month with a .931 save percentage.

Toronto had dropped its previous three games all by a goal (0-2-1), downed by Montreal, Carolina and New Jersey.

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