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Should Capitals give Holtby a shot at 49th win?

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Should Capitals give Holtby a shot at 49th win?

Now that Braden Holtby has matched Martin Brodeur’s single-season wins record, would the Capitals consider giving him the start tonight in their meaningless season finale against the Anaheim Ducks (7 p.m. Pregame Live, CSN)?

“Has not even crossed my mind," Capitals coach Barry Trotz said after Friday night’s history-making 5-1 win over the Blues in St. Louis, where Holtby won his 48th game and Alex Ovechkin reached 50 goals for the seventh time in his career.

“We'll see. There's reasons. … To me the most important thing is not putting (Holtby) at risk and be ready for the playoffs."

Holtby faced just 20 shots in Saturday night’s victory and with the Caps’ first-round playoff series expected to begin no earlier than Thursday night at Verizon Center, Holtby would have plenty of time to recover for the start of the post-season.

He’s also started “just” 66 games this season, seven fewer than he did last season.

So, should the Caps give their 26-year-old netminder the opportunity to stand alone atop the NHL mountain with 49 wins? Or, should they rest him for what could be a long post-season run and give Philipp Grubauer the start tonight?    

"I would love to play every game," Holtby said Saturday night, "but I don't make those decisions."

Those decisions fall on the shoulders of Trotz and goaltending coach Mitch Korn, who indicated last week – pretty strongly by the way – that the Caps intended on giving Grubauer one start this weekend.

“We will split them for two reasons,” Korn said. “The first is, I know you can get hurt in any given game, but we’re not going to put ourselves in jeopardy. If (Holtby) got hurt in a back-to-back, you open yourself up. You’re just going to get shot at (by second-guessers). And we have to keep Philipp ready. So, he’s got to play a game.”

If, indeed, Grubauer plays tonight, will the Capitals consider resting star left wing Alex Ovechkin, who also had a pretty historic night Saturday in St. Louis, becoming the first player in NHL history to have three straight 50-goal seasons twice (he also did it from 2007-10).

Ovechkin was clearly on a mission to score 50 goals now that he’s done it for the seventh time, joining an exclusive group of two (Wayne Gretzky and Mike Bossy each did it nine times), is there any sense in playing him tonight?

(For what it’s worth, the Penguins rested captain Sidney Crosby in their meaningless regular season finale against the Flyers on Saturday).

"The guys tried to find me out there," Ovechkin said. "I just have to put it in. It's harder and harder to score goals in this league, so I'm excited.”

MORE CAPITALS: Will history play a role when the Caps meet the Flyers?

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3 reasons the Caps beat the Sabres

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USA TODAY Sports

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 stars go a long way towards helping a team in the middle of a slump. It's a confidence boost for a team 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 first.

Andre Burakovsky snapping 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 at points this season.

Ovechkin's two-goal third period

Buffalo just 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 form the office. He would later add a deflection goal late 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

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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. 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. 893 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 was a power play goal from the office. No need for a one-timer on this one, as the Sabres gave him all the time he needed to aim up the shot and wrist it into the top corner. He added a late 

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 could not slow him down at all.