TORONTO -- It is one thing for the Toronto Maple Leafs to gain the lead, it is quite another for them to hold it.
They will try to get it right again on Saturday when they play the Washington Capitals at the Air Canada Centre.
The Capitals (13-5-2) will be playing their third game in four nights Saturday, after defeating the Buffalo Sabres 3-1 on Friday at the Verizon Center to complete a five-game homestand with four wins.
The Maple Leafs (8-8-4) have not played since Wednesday when they were up to their old tricks at New Jersey.
Toronto led 3-0 after the first period and 4-3 after the second before losing 5-4 in a shootout.
"We've managed ourselves into losses instead of victories, just by our (inability) to take care of the puck a little bit," Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock said. "We've got a little better, but we have a long way to go. We have to do a better job when we're ahead."
One positive for the Maple Leafs Friday was that center Auston Matthews, the first player taken in this year's draft, scored twice to end a 13-game goalless drought.
That could not prevent the Maple Leafs from losing for the fifth time in 20 games this season in which they have taken a lead into the third period.
"We've done lots of good things, but we've also identified areas that we're not good enough in and it's become clear as time has gone on," Babcock said. "For a club like us, we've got a long way to go. We understand that totally, but we're excited about the work we're getting done."
They will be facing a formidable opponent in the Capitals' left winger Alex Ovechkin, who has 12 goals and five assists.
"He's probably the best scorer of this generation of players," said Leafs left winger Matt Martin. "To go with that, he has the size and strength to have an impact on the game. When he's going, he's very tough to stop. More than anything you try and limit his chances rather than take them all away, he's so dynamic. You have to be physical on him, but he's not one to shy away from it either. He's a big body, 240 pounds I think and when he hits, it hurts. But we have to be hard on him."
Frederik Andersen, who did not play Wednesday when Jhonas Enroth got the starts, will return to the Toronto goal Saturday.
The Capitals also have had third-period troubles. They allowed a third-period goal in 11 of their past 12 games. They have allowed teams to tie or threaten in the third period in seven games.
"The most frustrating part is we've done it a few times this year," said goaltender Braden Holtby, who is the likely starter on Saturday after backup Philipp Grubauer played Friday. "And once it happens a few times, it's a habit. It's something we need to address and get better at and try and clamp down in third periods."
"You can't sit back and just defend in this league," Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. "So you've just got to keep playing. You see that around the league, teams that get a couple-of-goals lead, you tend to say, 'Okay, we're in good shape,' and you stop attacking and playing the right way."
After the game on Friday, the Capitals recalled left winger Paul Carey from the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League and he will join the team in Toronto. He has five goals and nine assists in 16 games at Hershey. The 28-year-old has played one game with Washington this season.