News, notes and quotes as the Capitals reflect on Wednesday night’s hard-fought 2-1 overtime win over the Red Wings in Detroit and look ahead to tonight’s home contest against the Dallas Stars (6:30 p.m., pregame, CSN):
Goalie decision: Braden Holtby was excellent in stopping 26 shots in Detroit, especially considering the humidity at ice level.
“It was warm out there,” said Holtby, who is in a four-way tie (Henrik Lundqvist, Pekka Rinne, Devan Dubnyk) for the NHL lead in victories with 10. “It was a bit of a sauna. I’m glad it didn’t go much longer.”
With that in mind the Caps could turn to backup Philipp Grubauer (2-0-1, 2.59, .899) when they face the Stars tonight.
Caps coach Barry Trotz said his starting goalie for tonight will be a pre-game decision.
Kuz-tastic: The Caps are now 2-1 in games decided in overtime, with Kuznetsov providing the difference in each win. He netted the game-winner Wednesday night when he accelerated past Henrik Zetterberg and went backhand to forehand to beat goaltender Petr Mrazek.
Kuznetsov said he saw the Red Wings making a change and decided to drive the net.
“A little Russian magic,” Caps defenseman Nate Schmidt said. “He’s a special guy when you give him time and space like that. I’m just glad he’s on our team, especially in overtime.”
Trotz said Kuznetsov’s overtime goal reminded him of the one he scored in Florida on Halloween night, only that one came on a drive from the left side of the net.
“He’s been one of the better guys in overtime,” Trotz said. “That was a fantastic move. He has such a high skill level and he’s a deceptive skater. It looks like he’s not moving his feet and he’s going faster every time. He’s getting known to do some good things, especially in overtime.”
Two D in OT: Trotz has stuck to his overtime formula of starting the extra period with defensemen Matt Niskanen and Karl Alzner, along with Kuznetsov. His theory may be that opposing forwards tire out quicker than his own defensemen and he can catch opposing forwards on their first change.
“That’s the way we’re going to do it,” he said of starting with two defenseman and one forward. “ I really don’t care what everybody else wants to do. We feel it’s all about possession. The best way to defend is getting defensemen out there It’s not right or wrong but it’s the way we’re going to deal with it. It’s worked more than not. I think it’s more natural for defensemen to defend and with Kuzy out there once they change you can catch some forwards out there.”
Where’s the power?: The Caps went 1-for-6 on the power play, with Justin Williams the lone goal scorer on a nice side-of-the-net redirect from Matt Niskanen. But everyone seemed to agree the Caps had better offensive looks than the 1-for-6 may indicate.
“It’s a little strange,” Holtby said. “Usually our group, with that many power plays, usually we have the lead. I think it showed our mental focus. We didn’t get frustrated with not scoring on the power play.”
On the Caps’ power-play goal, Nicklas Backstrom held the puck just long enough to give Niskanen extra time and space at the center point, where he looked off Alex Ovechkin in the left circle and found Williams alone at the side of the net.
“It was a broken play and like he does all the time (Backstrom) draws people to him,” Niskanen said. “He showed good deception and sucked the forward to him. I could either shoot it or look for a tip and I saw Williams’ stick there and he made a nice tip.”
Slow starts: The Caps allowed their opponent to score first for the eighth straight time but are 5-2-1 in those games.
“It’s obviously something we don’t want to let happen any longer,” Holtby said. “It’s a combination of us not being ready and myself letting in goals I should have. It’s a good test and it shows we’re never out of a game no matter what. There’s always something to work on and that’s one of the things we have to continue to work on.”