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Looking for a spark, Trotz shuffles lines


Looking for a spark, Trotz shuffles lines

Earning five out of a possible eight points in a four-game road swing—including three points in the dreaded California gauntlet of Anaheim, Los Angeles and San Jose—would be a successful trip for most teams.

The Capitals, however, are not most teams.

In those four games, the Caps never held the lead in any of them. Both of the team's wins came in overtime. Now after giving up the first goal in all four games and losing their last two, head coach Barry Trotz decided to mix things up at practice Monday.

Here are the lines from practice:

Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - Jay Beagle

Andre Burakovsky - Evgeny Kuznetsov - T.J. Oshie

Jason Chimera - Marcus Johansson - Justin Williams

Daniel Winnik - Mike Richards - Tom Wilson

Yes, should these lines hold for Tuesday's game it will mean the return of Beagle to the top line.

RELATED: Capitals, Ovechkin slumping at same time

"Maybe Oshie don't want to play with us," Ovechkin said after practice. The real reason, however, is that Trotz is looking for a spark.

"Every time I put [Beagle] up there I think it forces the line to go north," Trotz said. "We've had good production when we've put him up there. He goes and gets pucks. I think he drives the guys around him. He's an engine, he pushes people forward.

"I thought he was our best player in San Jose so he gets the first call. Simple as that."

For his part, Beagle knows what his job is when he's skating alongside Ovechkin and Backstrom.

"Get them the puck," Beagle said. "I just try and keep it simple."

Beagle is not a typical top line player, but with the team in a bit of a funk, every line is getting a bit of a makeover.

Ovechkin has been held without a goal for five games. The third line of Chimera-Johansson-Wilson, meanwhile, which had looked dominant when Johansson was moved there now has struggled with all three players combining for just five points in the team's last 10 games. The addition of the always dangerous Williams on the right side will instantly make that line more potent.

But players and lines go through slumps. The real concern continues to be the team's poor starts as the Caps have now allowed the first goal in 13 of their last 15 games.

When asked if he had any concerns about his team, Trotz said, "Yeah I have concerns, first period concerns. The same ones you have."

"Obviously start is something that we've talked about a lot," Beagle said. "We have to find a way to get a better start, have to find a way to get a lead and play with a lead. It obviously shows great resiliency coming back and shows the fire power we have, but we can't always make our push in the third. We've got to come out and play for a full 60."

It's something the team is well aware of and, quite clearly, tired of thinking about.

"To be honest, I'm kind of sick of talking about it," Justin Williams said. "I think it's been brought up so many times that we can deal with it ourselves. The answers are within here. We don't need to beat the horse all the time."

Until the problem is solved, however, it's something the Caps are going to have to keep hearing.

"I'm bringing it up everyday until it's fixed," Trotz said. "There's only one way to get us to stop talking about it, right? Fix it."

MORE CAPITALS: CSNMA to honor Craig Laughlin's 25th season as Caps broadcaster

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3 reasons the Caps beat the Sabres

3 reasons the Caps beat the Sabres

The Caps could not shake Buffalo for two periods, but a dominant finish on Saturday helped them pull away for a 5-1 win. Here's how they finally put away the Sabres.

A quick start

Strong starts go a long way towards helping a team in the middle of a slump. It's a confidence boost for a group in desperate need of one and the Caps got that boost on Saturday from Evgeny Kuznetsov. Kuznetsov used his wheels to zip in behind the defense and score just 50 seconds into the game. Washington led 1-0 at the end of the first, just the second time in 19 games they have held a lead after the opening 20 minutes.


Andre Burakovsky snapping a second period slump

It looked in the second period like the Caps were caught trying to protect the lead again, but Andre Burakovsky woke the team back up with his incredible highlight end-to-end goal. It really looked like Buffalo was going to tie the game at one, but instead, Burakovsky extended the lead to two. Going end to end the way he did shows a player who is starting to play with some confidence, something Burakovsky has lacked for much of the season.

Ovechkin's two-goal third period

Buffalo would not go away. Sam Reinhart got the Sabres on the board just 14 seconds into the third period and suddenly the Caps found themselves in a one-goal game again. But Ovechkin ended any hopes for the comeback as he struck in the top corner of the net on the power play from the office. He would later add a deflection goal to extend the lead to 5-1, giving a scuffling Washington team the dominant win they so sorely needed.

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3 stars of the game: Caps erupt in 3rd for dominant win over Sabres

3 stars of the game: Caps erupt in 3rd for dominant win over Sabres

The Capitals needed a win in the worst way and they got one, dispatching the Buffalo Sabres in dominating fashion with a 5-1 win.

Washington was locked in a tight game leading 2-0 heading into the third period when Sam Reinhart scored just 14 seconds into the period to pull Buffalo to within one. The Caps then slammed the door shut, scoring three unanswered goals to put away the Sabres.

Here are the three stars of the game.

1. Alex Ovechkin: This was career game No. 983 for Ovechkin, tying him for the franchise record for most games played with Calle Johansson. Ovechkin very fittingly celebrated the occasion with two goals. The first came on a power play goal from the office, but there was no need for a one-timer on this one. The Sabres gave him all the time he needed to aim up the shot and wrist it into the top corner.

He added a second goal late off a deflection from a John Carlson shot.

2. Evgeny Kuznetsov: To say the Caps have struggled at the start of games would be an understatement. In the last 18 games, Washington has held the lead after the first period only once. Kuznetsov made sure this game started off on the right foot as he scored just 50 seconds into the game. He turned on the jets in the neutral zone to turn the edge on Jason Pominville then easily skated around a weak, ill-advised challenge from Robin Lehner before flinging the puck into the yawning net.

It was the fastest goal to start a game by the Caps this season. It was just the start of what would be a four-point night for the Caps' center as he added three assists.

3. Andre Burakovsky: Burakovsky had the highlight of the game with his end-to-end goal in the second period to put Washington up 2-0. He looked like he was shot out of a cannon as he launched himself from the defensive zone, streaked down the center of the ice and in on net to slide the puck through the Lehner's five-hole.

Look how Burakovsky was able to slice through the Sabres' defense. Buffalo had him surrounded, but his speed caught the Sabres off-guard and they were not able to recover in time to actually slow him down.