Alexander Ovechkin (8) eludes Anton Stralman in a 7-1 Capitals triumph. ((Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press))

The Toronto Maple Leafs were hot and the Washington Capitals were not. So what happened?

Alexander Ovechkin scored twice to lead the visiting Capitals to a convincing 7-1 victory over the Maple Leafs before a crowd of 19,316 at the Air Canada Centre on Monday.

Ovechkin is heating up, with four goals and five assists in his past four games.

"We played very well tonight," he said.

Ovechkin has nine goals and 11 points in nine meetings with the Maple Leafs, including seven wins.

"I like to play in this atmosphere," he said. "Everybody stands if something happens, everybody screams … I like to play in this atmosphere, you know."

Matt Bradley contributed one goal and two assists, while Boyd Gordon and Matt Pettinger had a goal and an assist apiece.

Rookie Jeff Schultz, with his first NHL goal, and Brian Sutherby rounded out the scoring as the Capitals (5-6-0) won for only the second time in eight games.

"We played like that for the past four, five games," Capitals head coach Glen Hanlon said. "But the pucks just were not going in.

"The great thing about this group, though, is they never pout, they never get discouraged. The one thing they have learned to do in the past couple of years is to be resilient."

Michael Nylander provided three assists, and Viktor Kozlov had two.

"The scoring has to come from everyone and that is what happened tonight," said Capitals goaltender Olaf Kolzig, who faced 33 shots.

Alexei Ponikarovsky tallied the lone goal for the Maple Leafs (5-5-3), who looked impressive in road wins over the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Rangers prior to Monday's meltdown.

Toronto played with renewed crispness and precision on the road, but were so sloppy in their return to the ACC that they were jeered off the ice by the hometown fans.

"If we play like that on the road, we will get beat there too," Maple Leafs head coach Paul Maurice said. "We were not sharp.

"Clearly, there is still difficulty in accepting to play a simple game. We just continued to try and make plays that were not there."

"Just collectively, for some reason, we're very fragile at home," Maple Leafs captain Mats Sundin said. "How do I explain it?

"I can't. Just too many breakdowns all over the ice.

"We did a lot of good things on the road. But it seems we're tight at home, we try to do too much."

Vesa Toskala yielded four goals on 13 shots in the first period before being yanked in favour of Andrew Raycroft, who allowed three goals on 17 shots.

"We were flat and needed our goaltenders to give us a chance," Maurice said.

"We just have to learn from this, learn how to bring our A-game every night," Toskala said.

Three of Washington's goals hit Toronto sticks before entering the net.

But the Capitals were full credit for the victory, building up a 4-1 lead in the first period.

"Now when we go on the ice, we think about winning, not losing," Ovechkin said.

Gordon gets it going

Gordon opened the scoring 3:19 into the contest when, with his back to the net, he chipped a backhand shot by Toskala for his first goal of the season.

Ponikarovsky scored 31 seconds later to even proceedings, but Washington responded with three goals over the next 13 minutes.

Pettinger converted a carom off the end boards for a power-play goal at 5:26, and Ovechkin tallied his team-high seventh on a shot from the faceoff circle that changed direction when it struck Ian White's stick at 11:57.

"We got a lot of bad bounces," White said.

Schultz made it 4-1 on a wrist shot from high slot with 6:04 left in the period.

Bradley increased the margin 8:57 into the second period, bursting into the Toronto zone and beating Raycroft with a slapshot that grazed the blade of Jason Blake's stick en route to the back of the net.

Ovechkin upped it to 6-1 with his second goal of the evening and eighth overall, this one coming on a slapshot from the point that deflected off Andy Wozniewski's stick at the 11:09 mark.

Sutherby completed the carnage with 13:43 remaining in the third period.

With files from the Canadian Press