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It wasn't pretty, but with some hustle and grit, the Leafs defeated the Eastern Conference-leading Washington Capitals 2-1 on Saturday night.

Niklas Hagman scored the winning goal and Vesa Toskala closed the door as the league-worst Toronto Maple Leafs gained a much needed two points in a shootout thriller.

It's the first time Toronto has won a game in extra time all season.

Nothing about this season seems to have gone to plan and the players had no concern about looking silly in their rally helmets.

"It doesn't matter how we look if we win," Hagman said.

"You've got to change something up."

Added coach Ron Wilson: "It's nice that they're trying to change their luck."

Hagman also scored in regulation for the Maple Leafs (4-11-6).

Alex Ovechkin replied for Washington (13-5-5) with his 16th of the season, burying a cross-ice pass by Mike Green.

The Maple Leafs were fortunate to be facing a team that was not only playing for the second straight night, but also missing seven players due to injury.

Toronto also got some badly needed bounces. Capitals forward Eric Fehr had his stick break during his shootout attempt, Washington hit a couple of posts late in the third period and Hagman's goal beat Semyon Varlamov after a couple of quick redirections.

It was the kind of break the team desperately needed.

"We got a luck break on our goal, but I think we deserved it," Wilson said

No stat better highlights the gap between teams at the top and bottom of the conference than one that came to light after Ovechkin opened the scoring at 17:11 of the first period. The goal gave the Caps the lead, something they've held at some point in all 23 games this season, and marked the 18th time in 21 games the Leafs have surrendered the first goal.

Ovechkin's goal was classic No. 8. He took a nifty pass from streaking defenceman Mike Green and beat Toskala with the kind of quick, hard shot that only a handful of players in the world would be capable of unleashing.

The Maple Leafs were actually unfortunate to find themselves trailing after carrying much of the play, highlighted by a pair of solid penalty kills.

Toronto fought back to tie it with the kind of goal a team hard on its luck needs. Hagman was skating hard to the goal when Jason Blake's shot banked off a Caps defender and hit Hagman before getting past Varlamov at 16:49 of the second period.

The victory was especially big coming on the heels of Thursday's loss in Carolina, where Toronto blew a 3-0 lead, allowed the tying goal in the final seconds and was beaten in a shootout.

"It shows we got character," defenseman Ian White said.

"We're not just going to fold over and skate away."

Although, Ovechkin scored in the game, he was only a shadow of his dynamic self.

Overall, the Caps appeared sluggish and were only able to keep it close because of Varlamov's 38 saves.   "I think they had more gas," said Ovechkin, referring to the Maple Leafs.

One person surprised to see Toronto occupying the NHL's basement is Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau. He often watches the team play on television and thinks the Maple Leafs are better than their record shows.

"I have no idea why they're in the position they're in, but I know they're a dangerous club," Boudreau said. "They can throw guys over the boards, they can play the game.

"They're going to turn it around very shortly. Whether they're too far (out of the playoffs) or not, I don't know. But they're going to be a hard team to play against in the not-too-distant future."

The Leafs' next game is at home against the New York Islanders on Monday.