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Capitals look to begin a new streak


Capitals look to begin a new streak

Back in training camp, when Capitals coach Barry Trotz challenged his players to go the entire season without suffering back-to-back losses, he knew it was probably an unreachable goal.

On Saturday night, in their 38th game of the season, the Caps finally lost for the second straight time when they dropped a shootout decision to the Columbus Blue Jackets.

“I’ve been in the league long enough to realize that at some point we’re going to have a little blip in the radar and maybe take a step back,” Caps defenseman Matt Niskanen said last week, before the Caps’ two-game slide.

“What I really like about our team is that when we do have a setback, we’re hungry for the next game and we come out hard and well.”

The Caps did just that on Saturday, following a flat 4-2 loss in Carolina with a strong effort against the Blue Jackets. They were 68 seconds away from a regulation win but for the first time all season the Caps coughed up a third-period lead and eventually succumbed in a shootout.

Gone was the dream of becoming the first NHL team since 1976-77 Montreal Canadiens to go an entire season without consecutive defeats. But those Canadiens, who went 60-8-12, had the benefit of regulation ties.

“It’s a long year,” Caps right wing Tom Wilson told reporters after Saturday night’s loss. “We’ve done a great job of answering on back-to-backs thus far. We think we should have had (Saturday’s) game. … It’s not the outcome we wanted. We felt we played fairly well and now the next thing is not to lose three in a row.”
The Caps (28-7-3) lead the Eastern Conference with 59 points and own a 10-point lead over the New York Islanders in the Metropolitan Division. They’ll try to end their 0-1-1 swoon Tuesday night in Boston when they visit the Bruins (20-13-4, 44 points).
“I expect us to rebound against Boston,” Trotz said. “They’re going to be motivated after the Winter Classic (a 5-1 loss to the Montreal Canadiens at Gillette Stadium). They’re back home (at TD Garden). We got a point (Saturday night). It wasn’t a regulation loss. We pride ourselves in bouncing back and we’ve got to get a win.”

Niskanen says that if the Capitals continue to focus on the process and not always the result the wins will come and the losses will be few and far between.

“We’re probably not going to win every game the rest of the year,” Niskanen said, “but as we focus on our level of play – our execution, compete level, how we play --  the results will take care of themselves.” 

MORE CAPITALS: Johansson 'excellent' as Caps' third-line center

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3 reasons the Caps beat the Red Wings


3 reasons the Caps beat the Red Wings

Not much separated the Washington Capitals and the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday. A late 2-on-0 goal for Brett Connolly proved to be the difference.

Here's why the Caps ultimately walked away with the 1-0 win.

A first period goalie interference call

Andreas Athanasiou thought he had given the Red Wings a first period lead, but Barry Trotz challenged the call for goalie interference. The review showed that Tyler Bertuzzi clipped Philipp Grubauer in the head with an elbow right before the shot went in. Given how long it took the Caps to get going in this game, it is fair to say an early deficit would have been hard to overcome.


Killing off a full two-minute 5-on-3

Two man advantages are hard to kill. Killing off a full two-minutes at 5-on-3, that's a tall task. With the game still scoreless in the second period, T.J. Oshie and Lars Eller were both assessed penalties giving Detroit two-full minutes at 5-on-3. The Red Wings managed four shots on goal, but Washington was able to successfully kill off the penalty and keep the game scoreless.

Philipp Grubauer

There were few players who had strong efforts on Tuesday, but Grubauer was phenomenal. Even when the game felt sleepy in the first two periods, Detroit still managed 28 shots on goal, all of which were turned aside by the German netminder. When Washington finally took the lead in the third, the Red Wings woke up and began pushing the offense, but Grubauer was in the zone at that point and could not be beaten. His best save came in the third period when he stared down a breakaway from Athanasiou and extended the pad to deny the shot.


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Tarik's 3 stars: Grubauer, Caps shut down the Red Wings


Tarik's 3 stars: Grubauer, Caps shut down the Red Wings

It wasn’t pretty but the Caps eventually got what they needed in Detroit: two points.  

After a sleepy first 40 minutes, Brett Connolly scored midway through the third period and then Philipp Grubauer made sure it stood up at Little Caesars Arena, where Washington eked out a 1-0 victory Thursday over the scuffling Red Wings.


Tarik’s three stars of the game:

1-Philipp Grubauer, Capitals

For much of the game, Grubi was left to fend for himself. Good thing for the Caps he was up to the task. The German netminder, who has been one of the NHL’s top goaltenders since Thanksgiving, turned aside 39 shots, including three stops on a pivotal 5-on-3 penalty kill in the second period.

2-Brett Connolly, Capitals

The Caps didn’t get many Grade-A opportunities vs. Jimmy Howard. But Connolly buried one of the few they got…on a 2-on-0, set up by Jakub Vrana in the third period.

Connolly’s goal was his 15th of the season in his 63rd game, equaling the career-high he set a year ago in 66 contests. Vrana, meantime, has three goals and five assists since getting scratched 12 games ago.

3-Lars Eller, Capitals

Eller didn’t record a point, but he was all over the puck in Motown. The veteran center finished with a game-high six shots on net. He also had a key backcheck against Darren Helm, on a shorthanded breakaway, in the first period.

Eller was good in the dot, too, winning eight of 12 faceoffs.

Agree? Disagree? Let us know what you think in the comments.