The Washington Capitals showed Toronto why they are on the verge of clinching their second straight Presdidents' Trophy.
Lars Eller and Kevin Shattenkirk gave Washington a two-goal lead halfway through the game, and the Capitals cruised to a 4-1 win over the Maple Leafs on Tuesday night for their eighth win in nine games.
Nate Schmidt and Tom Wilson also scored for Washington and Philipp Grubauer stopped 27 shots. The Capitals moved closer to clinching the top spot in the Eastern Conference and the Presidents' Trophy with the league's best record. However, Pittsburgh's win over Columbus prevented them from doing so.
"I thought we came out and played with purpose," Washington coach Barry Trotz said. "The only disappointment I had is we took a late penalty and (Grubauer) didn't get the shutout. ... A real good effort for us against a really good team."
Mitch Marner scored his 19th of the season, spoiling Grubauer's shutout bid with a power-play goal with 1:08 to go. Curtis McElhinney finished with 34 saves for the Maple Leafs, who had won four straight and seven of eight.
Toronto was coming off a win at Buffalo the previous night and Washington last played on Sunday.
"We benefited from them playing last night, I think," Trotz said. "Them and Buffalo have a pretty good rivalry and those games are pretty intense."
Toronto coach Mike Babcock didn't want to use the Capitals' extra rest as an excuse.
"I would have liked obviously (to have) played them tomorrow and then have a measuring stick," he said. "To me we didn't measure anything. We didn't find out how good they were because we didn't push them at all. So to me it was a one-sided game. They were better than us from start to finish.
"We had eight minutes or something at the start of the second (period) but other than that they were bigger, stronger, faster, quicker, more organized — better."
Toronto could have clinched a playoff berth with a win, or a loss by the New York Islanders, but the Islanders later won in overtime at Nashville to preserve their postseason chances.
Toronto lost center Brian Boyle to an upper-body injury, possibly from a hard collision with Wilson in the first period.
The Capitals beat the Maple Leafs for the seventh time in their last eight meetings and are 10-2-1 in the last 13 matchups. The first two games this season were tight — Toronto won 4-2 here on Nov. 26 and Washington won 6-5 in overtime at home on Jan. 3 — but the Capitals were in control in this one.
"We need to be sharper and play better," Toronto forward Leo Komarov said. "We saw how they play. We're still a bit far away from that."
Washington spent a lot of time in the offensive zone in the first and Eller scored with 5:26 remaining in the opening period as he took a feed from Andre Burakovsky and sent a shot from near the right faceoff spot that took a deflection off a Toronto skate.
The Leafs came out with considerably more bite to open the second period and pressed the Washington goal. But the Caps weathered the storm and doubled their lead on Shattenkirk's power-play goal at the 10-minute mark. It was Shattenkirk's 12th of the year and first with the Capitals, and gave Washington its 36th power-play score in their last 40 games.
Alex Ovechkin got an assist on the play, moving him into sole possession of second place among Russian-born players on the NHL's all-time scoring list. He came into the game tied with Alexander Mogilny with 1,032 points and trailing Sergei Federov by 147 points for first place.
Washington played a controlled third period with Grubauer mopping up when needed. Schmidt, a late replacement for the injured John Carlson (lower body), added to the lead at 8:11 coming in from the point with little opposition to snap a shot past McElhinney.
Wilson made it 4-0 with a nifty deke with 3:14 left after being sent in alone by former Leafs player Daniel Winnik.
NOTES: It was the 100th NHL game for Leafs forward William Nylander. ... Ovechkin has 60 points (33 goals, 27 assists) in 42 career games against the Maple Leafs.
Capitals: Host the New York Rangers on Wednesday night.
Maple Leafs: Host Tampa Bay on Thursday night.