Veteran goalie Curtis Joseph sat on the bench for 59 minutes of last night's game, a spectator like the rest of us. For the remaining minute of regulation, five minutes of overtime and the shootout, he was the only player on the ice that truly mattered.

And when he stuffed Alex Ovechkin's shootout attempt to give his last-place Toronto Maple Leafs a 3-2 OT victory, he was mobbed by his mates as if he's won game seven of the Stanley Cup.

Joesph made nine saves in six minutes, several of the highlight reel variety, and earned the first star of the game. Really. For six minutes of work. He was in the game only because starter Martin Gerber lost his cool after the Caps controversial tying goal and made contact with referee Mike Leggo.

Brooks Laich was credited for the tying goal, which came on a scrum in the crease after Alexander Semin's original wrap-around attempt was thwarted. Laich got his stick underneath Gerber and seemed to push the Leaf goalie, with the puck underneath of him, into the goal.

Referee Leggo ruled that Laich played the puck under Gerber and the goal stood. Gerber immediately rose and slammed his blocker pad on the top of the goal, then chased down and made a brushing contact with Leggo. After a brief discussion with his linesmen, Leggo awarded the goal and tossed Gerber.

Gerber was assessed a game misconduct and is expected to receive additional disciplinary action from the league office.

The tying goals was scored while the Washington (45-23-7-97, first in Southeast, T-2 in East) were playing six-on-five with 57 seconds remaining. The Leafs had pulled ahead at 17:52 on a power play goal by Pavel Kubina that slipped past Caps goalie Jose Theodore (27 saves).

Each team had a goal in the second period. Toronto defenseman Phil Oreskovic registered his first career NHL goal, which seems to be redirected at least once by a Capitals skate.

Alex Ovechkin scored his league-leading 51st goal of the season on a power play with 21 seconds left in the middle stanza. He took a pass from Niklas Backstrom at the blue line, weaved through the Maple Leaf defense, deked Gerber and easily deposited a backhand shot past the fallen netminder.

There would be no over-the-top celebration for Ovie on this night, a simple kiss of the gloves and point skyward before gathering with teammates.

The Caps also failed to capitalize on a Toronto penalty in overtime, playing the final 1:02 with an extra man. That mattered not to Joseph, who had the line of the night in the press conference post-game.

I've played long enough," the 41-year-old Joseph said. "Ovechkin is definitely the greatest player in the game right now, I would agree with that. But I've played against the likes of Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux and guys like that."

Washington is off until Friday, when they host the Tampa Bay Lightning at 7:00 pm from Verizon Center.

Gerber going nuts. Photo by AP.


09:04 Phil Oreskovic (1), Slap Shot. Assist: Ponikarovsky, Grabovski
19:39 Power Play - Alex Ovechkin (51), Backhand Shot. Assist: Backstrom, Green

17:52 Power Play - Pavel Kubina (14), Slap Shot. Assist: Blake, Grabovski
19:03 Brooks Laich (19), Snap Shot. Assist: Semin, Ovechkin


Jeff Hamilton (2), GOAL

1. C. Joseph - TOR (Saves: 9, Save Pct: 1.000)
2. M. Green - WAS (Goals: 0, Assists: 1)
3. P. Oreskovic - TOR (Goals: 1, Assists: 0)

Donald Brashear missed his seventh straight game with a sprained knee. With two more goals, Mike Green can register the first 30 goal season by a defenseman in 16 seasons.