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Caps 'create havoc' for the Rangers


Caps 'create havoc' for the Rangers

Locked in a goaltending duel, the Caps turned to an unlikely hero to break the scoreless tie and give the Caps the edge in their series against the New York Rangers. Jay Beagle's goal in the second period proved to be as critical as it was bizarre, giving the Capitals the 1-0 win in Game 3.

It did not look like this would be Washington's night early on. The Rangers, well known for their fast starts and impressive road record, came out swinging from the opening puck drop.

"We would’ve liked to get out to a little better start, but we got on our heels a little bit," Troy Brouwer said. "They did a good job coming out hard. They’re real good at starting games off with some good pressure."

The Rangers looked well on their way to taking control of the game if not for the efforts of Braden Holtby. The Caps' netminder faced 30 total shots on the night, 11 in the first period and managed to turn them all aside, out-dueling his counterpart Henrik Lundqvist.

"I could sit here all day and tell you things about Holtby," Brouwer said, "How good he is, how good he's been for us. Tonight was no different. He made the saves that we needed him to make."

The shutout was Holtby's second-career playoff shutout.

Holtby's stellar night would not have been enough, however,  without Jay Beagle's second period tally.

RELATED: Behind masterful performance from Holtby, Caps take Game 3 1-0

In the second period, Brouwer and Andre Burakovsky attacked the Rangers down low on the forecheck. Burakovsky was able to take the puck and find Beagle in the slot. Lundqvist made the initial save, but Beagle followed the puck behind the net and banked it off of defenseman Keith Yandle into the net.

"I just was trying to create havoc," Beagle said. "I got a good shot in the slot there. [Burakovsky] gave me a nice pass and [Lundqvist] made a good blocker save and I just tried to comeback around and put it on net because I knew guys were crashing there and tried to wrap it around. Got a little lucky and it went in."

A goal from the third line was just what the doctor ordered for a Caps team that had become reliant on their top lines in the first two games.

"We're going to need some new heroes every night," Barry Trotz said, "It's going to be someone different for us. That's how we have to get it done. That line has been buzzing and had some chances and some looks and [the puck] hasn't gone in, [but] the harder you work, the luckier you get."

The goal was a big one not only because of the game situation, but because the team was able to see what of its hardest workers rewarded for his blue collar play.

"If you watch the bench I think the team gets more excited when Jay scores than anybody else on the team," Brooks Laich said. "Just a good, honest, hard-working guy. Great teammate, great friend."

"He prides himself on more than scoring goals being good on the PK being good on the faceoffs," Brouwer said, "But for him to breakthrough get a goal and get us a win tonight, it’s a good feeling for him and for the rest of us."

Up only 1-0, the Caps then turned back to their brick wall in net to finish off the Rangers. Holtby did just that, standing tall in the midst of New York's desperate third period attack.

Now with the 2-1 series lead, the focus must quickly shift to Wednesday night's Game 4, a game the Rangers will desperately need to win in order to avoid the 3-1 hole.

"We’ve got to prepare for a very tough team in two days here," Brouwer said. "We know the Rangers are going to come back real hard and try to tie the series up."

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Evgeny Kuznetsov considered day-to-day, will miss Sunday's game in Philadelphia

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Evgeny Kuznetsov considered day-to-day, will miss Sunday's game in Philadelphia

Evgeny Kuznetsov has been declared day-to-day with an undisclosed upper body injury, the Caps announced Saturday afternoon.

He will not play Sunday against the Flyers, marking the first time in four seasons that the durable 25-year-old center will have missed a game.

Kuznetsov, the Caps’ assists leader and first line pivot over the past week, was injured in the second period of Friday’s 6-3 win over the Islanders. On the play, he slashed on the arm by New York defenseman Thomas Hickey before he tumbled awkwardly into the end boards.


Kuznetsov did not return to the contest.

The Caps did not practice on Saturday as they made their way to Philadelphia, where they'll look to extend their winning streak to five games.  

The team, per usual, did not elaborate about the extent or nature of Kuznetsov’s injury. But it does seem to be a good sign that he was not listed as week-to-week—the designation the Caps typically reserve for more severe injuries. And with a two point lead on Pittsburgh in the Metro Division standings—and a game in hand—they can actually afford to be cautious with one of their most important players.


The injury does, however, come at a time when Kuznetsov appeared to be hitting his stride. Including the two assists he had racked up prior to leaving Friday’s game, Kuzy has amassed five goals and 11 assists in 10 games.    

Without Kuznetsov on Sunday, Nicklas Backstrom, Lars Eller and Jay Beagle will be the team’s most experienced centers. Travis Boyd and/or Chandler Stephenson figure to be deployed as the fourth pivot.

Coach Barry Trotz is expected to meet with reporters prior to Sunday’s game. It’s possible he’ll shed some more light on Kuznetsov’s outlook at that time.

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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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