WASHINGTON If you need a nickname for the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Funk Brothers is as good as any.
That's as in the Leafs are in another funk, not as in the Funk Brothers, the fabulous session band that played on most of the Motown hits in the 1960s. There are precious few hits on this version of the Funk Brothers, especially in last night's 4-1 loss to the woeful Washington Capitals.
That left the Leafs with a 1-1-1 record on their National Hockey League trip, with three of a possible six points.
In their first two games, a win over the Florida Panthers and a loss by shootout to the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Leafs could argue they were the better team. Not so last night, against the worst of their three opponents.
The Capitals wrapped up the game at 9:16 of the third period when the Leafs once again made only a desultory effort to clear the puck from their own zone. As five white sweaters stood and watched, Capitals forward Ben Clymer grabbed the puck behind the Leafs' net, moved to the side and tucked the puck behind Leafs goaltender Ed Belfour.
Chris Clark finished the Capitals scoring at 18:13 by knocking in a rebound off the end boards.
The Maple Leafs, who were a spirited and competitive group in their first two games on this trip, looked tired and slow last night against one of the worst teams in the league. By the third period, they had been outskated thoroughly by the Capitals, who held a 2-1 lead.
To make matters worse, there was another injury to a Leafs defenceman. Ken Klee, a former Capital who had been in a merry mood yesterday morning at the prospect of playing against his former team, was lost in the first period to an ankle injury. It was not immediately known how long he will be out, but the way his ankle turned over on the hit by a couple of Capitals does not bode well for the veteran.
Leafs general manager John Ferguson said if a replacement is needed, Toronto Marlies defenceman Ian White would be called up for tonight's game at the Air Canada Centre against the New Jersey Devils.
The first two periods were rather rambunctious, with two large scrums involving Alexander Ovechkin, the Capitals' rookie prodigy.
The first one came in the first period when Ovechkin fell on Leafs goaltender Ed Belfour's back. A delayed penalty was signalled on Ovechkin, and when he got up, Leafs defenceman Bryan McCabe cross-checked him and then Ovechkin jumped on McCabe's back.
This brought Belfour into the fray and set off the scrum.
Belfour punched Ovechkin with his blocker glove. As the scrum developed, Capitals goaltender Olaf Kolzig skated the length of the ice to give Belfour a shove and a few choice words.
Once the penalties were sorted out, the Leafs had a power play for two minutes, but could not capitalize on it.
The second scrum came in the second period and left the Leafs short-handed for two minutes, although they managed to kill off the power play. This one started when Leafs rookie defenceman Andy Wozniewski was caught pinching in the Capitals zone and Ovechkin took off with the puck.
McCabe was only Leaf back and he had to take a penalty to pull Ovechkin down. After Ovechkin got up, he skated toward McCabe, who punched him in the face. The rookie embellished his back flop, which drew a diving penalty, and lay on the ice while Wozniewski got into a fight with Capitals forward Ben Clymer.