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Tarik's 3 stars: Grubauer, Caps shut down the Red Wings

Tarik's 3 stars: Grubauer, Caps shut down the Red Wings

It wasn’t pretty but the Caps eventually got what they needed in Detroit: two points.  

After a sleepy first 40 minutes, Brett Connolly scored midway through the third period and then Philipp Grubauer made sure it stood up at Little Caesars Arena, where Washington eked out a 1-0 victory Thursday over the scuffling Red Wings.

RELATED: EARLY INTERFERENCE CALL CHANGED GAME

Tarik’s three stars of the game:

1-Philipp Grubauer, Capitals

For much of the game, Grubi was left to fend for himself. Good thing for the Caps he was up to the task. The German netminder, who has been one of the NHL’s top goaltenders since Thanksgiving, turned aside 39 shots, including three stops on a pivotal 5-on-3 penalty kill in the second period.

2-Brett Connolly, Capitals

The Caps didn’t get many Grade-A opportunities vs. Jimmy Howard. But Connolly buried one of the few they got…on a 2-on-0, set up by Jakub Vrana in the third period.

Connolly’s goal was his 15th of the season in his 63rd game, equaling the career-high he set a year ago in 66 contests. Vrana, meantime, has three goals and five assists since getting scratched 12 games ago.

3-Lars Eller, Capitals

Eller didn’t record a point, but he was all over the puck in Motown. The veteran center finished with a game-high six shots on net. He also had a key backcheck against Darren Helm, on a shorthanded breakaway, in the first period.

Eller was good in the dot, too, winning eight of 12 faceoffs.

Agree? Disagree? Let us know what you think in the comments.

MORE CAPS: TOP 10 PROSPECTS

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Don Cherry calls Evgeny Kuznetsov a "jerk" for his bird celebration

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Don Cherry calls Evgeny Kuznetsov a "jerk" for his bird celebration

Don Cherry has been part of the Hockey Night in Canada broadcast since 1986 with his segment "Coach's Corner." Typically, he discusses the tough and physical aspects of the game.

But during Saturday's broadcast, Cherry called out Caps center Evgeny Kuznetsov for his bird-walk celebration.

"Watch the jerk here now after he scores the goal," Cherry said. "He misses here, he's deep in the end, watch Hedman get the goal. Remember kids, Hockey Night in Canada, karma hockey, it always comes back, he's not even in the thing, he is a jerk and he inspires the other team. Remember kids, never inspire the other team."

This isn't the first time Cherry has called out Kuznetsov for his celebration. When Kuznetsov scored to tie the Feb. 12th game against the Columbus Blue Jackets, he celebrated with the birdman celly in front of the Blue Jackets' bench. Columbus gave it right back to Kuzy when they scored the overtime winner.

"He gives ’em that in front of their bench. Watch what Columbus does when they scored. The Birdman," Cherry said. "Watch this in Columbus. You do not make fun of a team when you score. You play the game."

In the Stanley Cup Final, Cherry praised Brayden McNabb for hitting Kuznetsov and potentially injuring him. "You wanna be a wise guy, remember kids, you wanna jump around, this is what happens to ya," Cherry said. "I used to give them the extra little shot there all the time."

Kuznetsov explained that he does the bird walk celebration because his daughter, Ecenia, is a fan of it. It's inspired by the celebration in the video game FIFA '18.

And the Capitals are making good use of the celebration, giving away Kuzy bird walk bobbleheads during their game against the Carolina Hurricanes on March 26.

That game could be a battle of the jerks, as Don Cherry called the Carolina Hurricanes a "bunch of jerks" for their Storm Surge celebrations.

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Capitals on the cusp of second ever season sweep of Flyers

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Capitals on the cusp of second ever season sweep of Flyers

WASHINGTON – The Capitals entered the NHL when the Philadelphia Flyers were at the height of their powers. 

The "Broad Street Bullies" pummeled Washington in the 1970s. It took the Capitals seven years to even win a game in regulation against their I-95 rivals. Even when they finally built a consistent winner in the early 1980s, the Flyers were almost always good, too. 

Philadelphia made the Stanley Cup playoffs 34 times in 43 years, reached the Cup Final eight times and has won it twice. So only once before has Washington done what it has a chance to do Sunday when the two teams meet at Capital One Arena: sweep the season series. 

The Capitals (43-24-8, 94 points) lead the Metropolitan Division by one point and need a win to maintain that position after consecutive losses at home. The game is at 12:30 p.m. on NBC. 

The one and only time Washington swept Philadelphia came in 2006-07 – Alex Ovechkin’s second season in the NHL. That was a particularly bad year for the Flyers, who went 22-48-12 and with 56 points finished with the worst record in the NHL. The organization had made the Stanley Cup playoffs 28 times in the previous 33 years. It wasn’t used to losing and certainly not that often to the Capitals. 

Washington went 4-0 that season against the Flyers and outscored them 20-9. Ovechkin had six goals and five assists in those games. This year’s version is nowhere near that bad. Philadelphia is 36-31-8, but after Saturday’s loss to the New York Islanders they are stuck on 80 points, which is five out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with just seven games to go. 

If they do miss, as expected, the losses to the Capitals will hurt. The Flyers are 0-3-0 and have allowed 15 goals to Washington. And that is despite holding Ovechkin to a goal and two assists. Here are other things to watch for in Sunday's game: 

Capitals recall Lewington

With defenseman Michal Kempny out indefinitely, Washington recalled Tyler Lewington from AHL Hershey on Saturday. But will he have to play? Maybe not on Sunday. Christian Djoos took Kempny’s spot in the lineup in Friday’s loss to Minnesota and is expected to remain in the lineup. But Lewington's presence provides insurance on a team where illness has struck in recent days. This is Lewington’s second call-up this season. He made his NHL debut on Dec. 22 and in a Dec. 29 game at Ottawa had a Gordie Howe hat trick with a goal, an assist and a fight. 

Kuznetsov’s health

One of those players who have fallen ill is Evgeny Kuznetsov, who missed practice Saturday with an illness and was sent home. If he isn’t able to play then Lars Eller would bump to the second line to play center with Carl Hagelin and T.J Oshie. Hagelin was on the ice on Saturday, but the veteran winger was a late scratch with an illness against the Wild on Friday. The third line could be Jakub Vrana and Brett Connolly with Travis Boyd taking over for Eller.  Keep an eye on Kuznetsov’s energy level if he does play. Capitals coach Todd Reirden didn’t rule him out. 

Ovechkin’s chase for 50

The chase continues for Ovechkin, who sits at 48 goals to lead the NHL. Ovechkin has two assists in the past three games, but no goals. Washington is 1-1-1 during this stretch. Ovechkin is seven points away from his first 90-point season since 2009-10. 

Scoreboard watch

With the lead over the Islanders down to one point with seven games to go, keep an eye on New York’s home game Sunday against the Arizona Coyotes. That is a 3 p.m. start. The Capitals are seeking their fourth consecutive Metropolitan Division crown. 

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