Maple Leafs lose 6-2 to Capitals in interim Coach Horachek's debut

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TORONTO — Peter Horachek saw positives, but the Toronto Maple Leafs' first step under their new interim coach started with another loss.

Marcus Johansson and Eric Fehr scored two goals apiece as the Washington Capitals, backed by a record-tying performance by Braden Holtby in goal, beat Toronto 6-2 on Wednesday night.

"There were some good things," Horachek said. "We outchanced them, our possession numbers were better. We outshot them but we gave up some poor timely goals.

"We've got to eliminate those issues where we're making things happen to ourselves. But we did a lot of things that we wanted to do and sometimes it's just going to be harder at first than we want it to be, to get back into the win column."

Brooks Laich and Alex Ovechkin, with an empty-net goal, also scored for Washington, which is 12-6-3 on the road. It was Ovechkin's 20th goal of the season and 50th career point against Toronto in 35 games.

"I thought we were pretty slow out of the gates," Washington coach Barry Trotz said. "I thought as the game went on we played more to our identity than we did early in the game."

Holtby's 22nd straight start tied Wayne Stephenson's club record as Washington, 7-1-2 in its last 10 games, won its third in a row.

Daniel Winnik and Trevor Smith scored for Toronto, which has lost three straight and is 2-8 in its last 10. Former Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle was fired on Tuesday.

Horachek was tabbed as interim coach earlier Wednesday.

The Maple Leafs started well but fell into bad habits. Washington improved to 11-4-2 in its last 17 games against Toronto.

It was the Maple Leafs' first home game since Dec. 20. They went 2-5 on a trip created by the world junior hockey championship.

Horachek, a former assistant to Washington coach Barry Trotz in Nashville, moved forward Phil Kessel and others around and mixed his lines.

Kessel was kept in check by the Capitals. He had found himself in the spotlight in the wake of Carlyle's firing, objecting to being labeled as uncoachable.

"We did some good things out there but again we didn't get it done," he said. "We gave them a couple of goals.

"I think guys are positive here. We know we have a good team here. We haven't been playing our best and we're making some mistakes and they're getting goals off them."

Washington led 1-0 despite being outshot 7-4 in the first period. The Capitals added three goals in a more open second period in which a total of five goals were scored.

Washington scored on its first shot at 5:10 of the first period, a wrist shot from Johansson that beat Jonathan Bernier.

"Marcus' shot is very underrated," Laich said. "The guy can really shoot the puck, and you see tonight with two really nice goals."

Defenseman Roman Polak took a puck to the face midway through the period, leaving a pool of blood on the ice and forcing the Maple Leafs to rotate through five defensemen until he returned late in the second period sporting stitches and a swollen face.

"He's a warrior," Maple Leafs defenseman Stephane Robidas said. "I knew he was a warrior but he just proved it to us again."

The period began to open up, with the Caps peppering Bernier with shots.

The two captains got in it after Toronto's Dion Phaneuf gave Ovechkin a tap with his stick. The Capitals star retaliated with several cross-checks, knocking Phaneuf off his feet.

Fehr made it 2-1 with a short-handed goal at 6:20 after a fine rush and feed by Jay Beagle. Morgan Rielly went to the bench as the puck went past him on a poor line change.

Laich increased the lead to 3-1 at 8:58 after the Maple Leafs lost a faceoff, and Laich's wrist shot deflected in off defenseman Cody Franson's stick for his fifth goal.

Smith closed the gap with his first of the season at 16:08. Johansson restored the two-goal lead with a wrist shot 42 seconds later for his 12th.

Fehr padded the lead with a slap shot that seemed to deflect slightly off Maple Leafs defenseman Jake Gardiner's stick at 11:20 of the third after a Toronto penalty expired. It was his 13th goal.

NOTES: When naming Horachek coach, the Maple Leafs also announced that manager of player development Steve Staios would go behind the bench. Staios' title isn't changing. ... Toronto forward Carter Ashton cleared waivers and was assigned to the Toronto Marlies of the AHL. ... Horachek's second game will be Friday against Columbus.

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