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Burakovsky scores, but Caps fall in shootout to Flyers

Burakovsky scores, but Caps fall in shootout to Flyers

PHILADELPHIA— Andre Burakovsky scored his first goal in 27 games and helped set up another for the Capitals, but it wasn’t to prevent the visitors from falling to the Flyers, 3-2, in a shootout at Wells Fargo Center on Wednesday night.

How it happened: Lars Eller, with some help from Burakovsky, scored his third goal of the season midway through the second period to put the Caps ahead 2-1. The visitors held that lead until the final seconds of the middle frame, when an Evgeny Kuznetsov turnover landed squarely on the stick of Flyers captain Claude Giroux, who ripped a wrist shot past Braden Holtby to send the game into the third period knotted 2-2.

The Caps were gifted a chance with 1:48 remaining in regulation when they were awarded their first power play of the night. But they mustered only one shot—by Alex Ovechkin—and the game went to overtime, which didn’t settle anything, either.

As a result, one of the season’s most exciting games of the season was settled by a skills competition. Wayne Simmonds was credited with the winner.

What it means: The Caps arrived on Broad Street trailing the Flyers by a single standings point in the jammed-up, ultra-competitive Metro Division. They left trailing by two points.  

Bura’s back: No one on the Caps needed a goal more than Burakovsky, who had been scratched the previous three games for his lack of goal production. That slump, however, ended emphatically with 1:36 remaining in the first, when the 21-year-old winger cradled a slick pass from Dmitry Orlov and then sent a blistering wrister over Steve Mason’s blocker to open the scoring. Even before Burakosky broke through on the score sheet, he had been one of the Caps’ best players, backchecking with vigor and making plays in the offensive end.   

Game of inches: Confusion reigned inside Wells Fargo Center for a few moments early in the second period. The horn sounded. The goal light came on. The capacity crowd erupted. But the refs needed a second look on video review. Michael Raffl’s wraparound attempt hit Holtby’s outstretched stick and flipped up into the air. Just as it crossed the goal line, Carlson used his stick to bat the puck out of midair and away from the cage. Unfortunately for the Caps, though, the puck had already crossed the goal line by a few inches prior to Carlson’s effort. Following a brief review, the correct call was made. Raffl’s seventh goal knotted the game 1-1.

Makin’ a killing: The Flyers’ power play came into the game without a goal in four straight games, but the unit still ranked fifth overall in the NHL. Well, the Caps’ penalty killers made sure it stayed cold. The Flyers did not register a single shot on net with the man advantage.

Makin’ their case: Barry Trotz has made no secret of the fact that he’s still searching for the right mix on the third line. And although it was just one performance, it would seem that the trio of Burakovsky, Eller and Vrana have entered the conversation after a particularly strong night Wednesday. The line combined for two goals, four points and eight shots on goal.

Look ahead: The Caps have 12:30 practice Thursday at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. They host the Lightning on Friday. The Bolts are 3-7-2 in their last 12 games and will be playing the back half of a back-to-back after entertaining the Blues on Thursday night. No games are scheduled league-wide Saturday-Monday in observance of Christmas.   

RELATED: Joe Biden in attendance at Caps-Flyers game

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Who ya got? Trotz faces tough choice in net after Holtby's strong return

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Who ya got? Trotz faces tough choice in net after Holtby's strong return

Braden Holtby has made Barry Trotz’s weekend very difficult, but in a good way.

Back-to-back games against the New York Islanders offered the Capitals an opportunity to play both Philipp Grubauer and Holtby. Grubauer stayed hot earning another win for Washington. On Friday, Holtby got his first start since March 6 and played very well.

“A win is good,” Holtby said after the game. “I felt pretty comfortable. Some things to build off of and things that I want to get better at. It was a step in the right direction.”


A 22 save effort on Friday was bookended by two big saves. The first shot Holtby faced was a turnover on the power play that led to a dangerous shorthanded scoring opportunity for John Tavares early in the first period. Then in the third, with the Capitals leading 5-3 and the Islanders trying to mount a comeback, Holtby turned aside a breakaway opportunity for star rookie Mathew Barzal.

“I thought he was pretty solid,” Trotz said. “He looked really confident.”

“I felt a lot better,” Holtby said. “Not that I was feeling horrible before, it's just you get refreshed. It's like anything, you have a week off work, a holiday or something, you come back a little refreshed.”

And that brings us to Sunday.

On Sunday, the Capitals play the Philadelphia Flyers. The Flyers are a team in playoff position in desperate need of points after seven of their last eight games.

When asked on Wednesday who he thought would start Sunday’s game, Trotz said, “We're in a result business and we need some results so we'll see who is looking the sharpest and gives us the best chance to win.”

Both Grubauer and Holtby were impressive in their starts over the Islanders. You can’t argue Holtby is suddenly the hotter hand after one win considering how well Grubauer has played of late, but if Holtby remaisn the team’s No. 1, shouldn’t he get the next start after a strong winning performance?


Trotz was asked after the game who would start on Sunday after Holtby’s win.

“They're both playing well so I can't even answer that right now to be honest with you,” he said. “I do know that we have a number of games this week and whatever way go, obviously I'm going to sit down with the coaches and whatever way we go, I think they're both going to get some time this week.”

“I think you have to take it game-by-game,” Trotz added. “Bottom line is that you've got to make a decision and go with it and if your decision is that goalie A is a little hotter or you've just got a gut feel then you go with it and you have to live with it good or bad.”

So for now, it sounds as if we will see a rotation in net as Trotz continues evaluating which netminder gives the team the best chance to win in the playoffs. It is a tough position for the Caps’ bench boss, but, if both goalies continue to perform, having to choose between a hot Grubauer and a resurgent Holtby is a good problem to have and much preferable to having to choose between backup Grubauer and slumping Holtby.

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Kuznetsov to be evaluated Saturday after leaving Islanders game with "upper body" issue

Kuznetsov to be evaluated Saturday after leaving Islanders game with "upper body" issue

The Capitals may have won the game Friday against the New York Islanders, but now they will wait to see if they also suffered a significant loss.

Kuznetsov left the game in the third period after taking a slash from Islanders defenseman Thomas Hickey which sent him sliding head-first into the boards. The team labeled the issue as “upper body” when it was announced he would not return to the game.

Head coach Barry Trotz was tight-lipped afterward on Kuznetsov’s status.

“They're going to re-evaluate him tomorrow and we'll have some clarity hopefully tomorrow,” he said.


You can see the play here:

When Kuznetsov is first slashed he immediately reacts. His feet then catch the stick of goalie Jaroslav Halak which sends him tripping and sliding hard into the boards. He sat on the ice for several minutes afterward and was looked at by the trainer before getting to his feet and slowly making his way to the locker room.

When asked after the game what he felt about the slash, Trotz said only, “Hockey play.”

One of the Capitals’ biggest strengths as a team is their depth down the middle. Any injury to a center, considering it is arguably the most important skating position on the ice, would be significant. An injury to the team’s top-line center would be even more costly.

Kuznetsov leads the team with 28 assists and ranks second in both goals (21) and points (69).