WASHINGTON – The Washington Capitals kept up their latest surge and piled on the misery of a fading playoff contender Sunday, with Michal Neuvirth getting his third shutout of the season in a 2-0 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Neuvirth made 23 saves, and Brooks Laich and Matthieu Perreault scored for Washington. The Capitals remained a point behind Florida for the Southeast Division lead. The Panthers beat Carolina on Sunday.
Jonas Gustavsson made 21 saves for the Maple Leafs, who have lost four straight and 10 of 11, their fortunes barely changed in the five games since the change in coaches from Ron Wilson to Randy Carlyle. Toronto was shut out in both of its weekend games, losing 1-0 after a shootout at home to Philadelphia on Saturday night.
The Capitals have been a streaky team of late in their more-challenging-than-expected quest for a fifth straight division title. They lost three, won three, lost three and now have won three in a row once again. This latest streak includes Saturday's 4-3 win at defending Stanley Cup champion Boston, but next up is a critical stretch: a five-game road trip against the New York Islanders, Winnipeg, Chicago, Detroit and Philadelphia.
Washington took the lead midway through the first period when Laich swept behind Jake Gardiner to intercept a lazy backpass in the neutral zone during a Toronto power play, then converted the breakaway for his 14th goal of the season. The Capitals found themselves with a 1-0 lead for the fourth straight game — a reversal from a recent slump when the other teams kept scoring first.
Perreault added a cushion in the first minute of the third period, putting in the rebound after Jonas Gustavsson made a kick save on shot by Alexander Semin.
Neuvirth did the rest, getting his first shutout since Jan. 18.
Notes: Capitals D Mike Green served the second game of his three-game suspension for his hit on Tampa Bay's Brett Connolly. ... Maple Leafs F Mike Brown missed his third game in four with a leg injury. ... Washington is 12-5-1 against teams from Canada this season.
Joseph White can be reached at http://twitter.com/JGWhiteAP