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Quick turnaround for Caps after win in Detroit with Stars up next


Quick turnaround for Caps after win in Detroit with Stars up next

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.”

[RELATED: Holtby makes incredible stick save against Detroit]

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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.