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Caps give little support to Grubauer -- again


Caps give little support to Grubauer -- again

News, notes and quotes as the Capitals return home from a 1-1-1 road trip to Philadelphia, Colorado and Arizona and enjoy a Sunday off before the final four games of the regular season:  

No run support for Grubi: For the second straight time, Caps backup goaltender Philipp Grubauer received zero offense in a 3-0 shutout loss. Last weekend Grubauer fell 4-0 to the St. Louis Blues on the back end of a back-to-back set. Against the Coyotes, the Capitals hit two posts (one each by Alex Ovechkin and Dmitry Orlov) and saw a pair of Coyotes shots deflected past Grubauer.

“Back to back, it’s always tough the second game,” said Grubauer, who fell to 8-8-1 with the loss. “We had a hard game in Colorado and knew it was the last home game for those guys. Even going into the last period we knew they were coming hard. We had chances. It’s not like we played bad, we played great and if we keep playing the right way it’s going to be good.”

Grubauer kept the Coyotes off the board through the first two periods, making an incredible split save on Tobias Rieder with 2:38 remaining in the first period. But the Coyotes recorded the first six shots of the third period and got on the board when Shane Doan deflected a shot by Max Domi. When defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson cranked a slapshot off the stick of T.J. Oshie and past Grubauer just 27 seconds later, the Coyotes had all the momentum in their favor.

“It probably happens once every 30 games,” Grubauer said of the double deflection, which also went off the skate of a Coyote player. “It’s the first time (this season) it’s happened to me. You get those once in a while.”

Caps defenseman Karl Alzner said Ekman-Larsson’s goal changed the game.

“They played a solid game and they didn't stop," Alzner said "They finally got one to break it open on a good tip and the second one going in the way it did, it kills your mojo a little.

"After that, you hope for a team to kind of sit back, that's kind of where we usually take advantage. But they didn't sit back. We didn't have an answer for it. We didn't play great but they played a really solid game."

What the Coyotes were saying: Arizona coach Dace Tippett: “We caught a team on the back-to-back and capitalized on a chance or two and got the win.”

Max Domi: “That’s the best team in the league over there and we found a way to stay in it and (goaltender Mike Smith) was unbelievable."

Unlucky: The Caps have it seven posts in the past two games and believe luck will turn in their favor when the playoff begin next week.

"We're getting chances,” center Jay Beagle said. “It's not a matter of not getting any shots. We had Grade-A chances. We're hitting posts all over the place. We just have to keep getting those chances and eventually they will start going in."

No Backy: Center Nicklas Backstrom sat out his second straight game with an upoper body injury but Barry Trotz said he expects him back in the lineup this week when the Caps face the Islanders and Penguins at home on Tuesday and Thursday nights.  

Slow starts: Trotz was not happy with the way the Caps started any of their three periods on Saturday.

“We were sleeping in the first five minute of the game,” he said. “Second period, same thing.”

Said Andre Burakovsky: “We started a little slow in every single period.  It’s something we have to get rid of.”

RELATED: Offense struggles in Capitals' shutout road loss to Coyotes

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3 reasons why the Caps lost to the Lightning

3 reasons why the Caps lost to the Lightning

After a rough start, the Caps battled back to make a game of it against Tampa Bay, but ultimately fell 4-2 to the Lightning. Here's why.

The first period

To put it simply, this game was lost in the opening period. Washington was the better team for the second and third but they could not overcome the 3-0 lead they spotted the Lightning in the first. Beyond the goals, the Caps just did not play well. Even the simplest of plays looked difficult as Washington struggled to get the puck out of their own zone, gave up numerous turnovers and scoring chances and just looked overmatched. Braden Holtby also looked shaky allowing three goals on just eight shots. Usually he is able to cover up some of the mistakes the defense makes it front of him, but he was not there to bail the team out on Tuesday in what was a really rocky start.


Taking a penalty 34 seconds into the game

Entering Tuesday’s game, Tampa Bay boasted the second best power play unit in the league. Playing a disciplined game is part of every game plan, but that is especially true against such a dominant unit. Giving up a penalty just 34 seconds into the game was not an ideal start. The call itself was debatable. Brett Connolly was called for interference when he knocked over Dan Girardi in the offensive zone. The puck was just behind Girardi as he had lost control of it in his skates. The sticking point here is that Girardi no longer had possession and Connolly could have played the puck instead of the player. Most referees would probably let that go with the puck so close, but Connolly was not so lucky. Whether it was a good call or not, the Caps found themselves down a man and down a goal soon after as Brayden Point scored the power play tally.

A missed opportunity from Kuznetsov on one end, a goal for Nikita Kucherov on the other

Even after spotting the Lightning a 3-0 lead, the Caps made a game of it. Lars Eller struck on the power play in the second period and Alex Ovechkin pulled Washington to within one with about nine minutes left to play. Just over a minute later, Evgeny Kuznetsov stole the puck away from Nikita Kucherov, the frontrunner for league MVP this season, at the Tampa blue line giving the Caps a short 2-on-1. Defenseman Andrej Sustr was textbook on the play forcing Kuznetsov as far wide as he could go while still covering the passing lane and Kuznetsov elected to shoot from the faceoff dot rather than attempt the pass to T.J. Oshie.Andrei Vasilevskiy made a routine blocker save to deny what looked like a great opportunity to tie the game. As always happens in hockey, a failed opportunity on one end led to an opportunity in the other direction. Less than a minute later, Kucherov made up for his mistake by scoring a breakaway goal to put the game out of reach at 4-2.


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3 stars of the game: Lightning strike 3 times in the first to burn Caps

3 stars of the game: Lightning strike 3 times in the first to burn Caps

The first 20 minutes of Tuesday's game did not go well for Washington. The Tampa Bay Lightning scored three times in the opening frame and rode that lead all the way to the 4-2 win.

With the game heading towards a repeat of their blowout loss to Chicago, the Capitals rebounded in the second period to make a game of it as Lars Eller scored on a power play. Alex Ovechkin pulled Washington within one in the third period, but Nikita Kucherov slammed the door shut with a breakaway goal to extend the lead back to 2.

Here are the three stars of the game:

1. Brayden Point: Tampa Bay won this game in the first period when they took a 3-0 lead. Point scored two of those three goals. His first came only 2:30 into the game. He retreated to the blue line on the power play believing Jay Beagle would clear the puck. When Beagle turned the puck over, he recognized it and immediately crashed the net, taking a Ryan Callahan pass in the slot and shooting it through the five-hole of Braden Holtby.

On his second goal, Anton Stralman saw an opportunity on the Caps’ line change and passed the puck up to Point at the blue line. Point turned on the jets to get behind the defense and went five-hole again on Holtby to make the score 3-0.

2. Alex Ovechkin: After the first period, Washington slowly took this game over for much of the remaining 40 minutes. Ovechkin was a big part of that as he totaled an incredible 19 shot attempts for the game. Nine of those shots were on goal and he found the back of the net in the third period for career goal No. 594.

3. Tom Wilson: Through the first period, the Caps looked well on their way to a repeat of the 7-1 debacle they suffered Saturday in Chicago. They had nothing going in this game until Wilson drew a trip from Vladislav Namestnikov in the second period. Eller would score on the resulting power play giving Washington some much-needed life.

The Namestnikov penalty was the 29th drawn penalty of the season for Wilson, which moves him into a tie with Matthew Tkachuk for the most drawn penalties in the NHL.