Caps can’t hold early lead as Leafs run away with victory

Capitals center Dylan Strome shoots the puck against Maple Leafs goaltender Ilya Samsonov

Nicklas Backstrom’s first goal of the season had the Capitals in control of Sunday’s game against the Toronto Maple Leafs heading into the first intermission, but the home team took over from there with a four-goal second period to run away with a 5-1 win at Scotiabank Arena.

Backstrom, who missed the first half of the season recovering from offseason hip resurfacing surgery, had four assists in eight games heading into the contest. He broke through against Toronto with his first tally in 10 months and three days, firing a slap shot from the right circle on a power play to beat former teammate Ilya Samsonov.

With star forward Auston Matthews out for the next three weeks due to a knee sprain, the Maple Leafs were looking for a bounce-back effort after losing 6-2 to the Ottawa Senators in their first game without him Friday. They got off to a slow start but hit their groove in the second, forcing Capitals goaltender Darcy Kuemper out of the game 35 minutes in.

Kuemper stopped 16 of 20 shots before ceding the crease to backup Charlie Lindgren, who allowed one goal with six stops the rest of the way. Starting for the injured Matt Murray (ankle), Samsonov made 23 of 24 saves to get the win for Toronto in his third career start against his former team.

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The Capitals dropped to 26-20-6 with the loss, their seventh regulation defeat in their last 11 games. They’ll head to Ohio for a date with the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday for their final game ahead the NHL All-Star Break.