Sunday, February 05, 2017

A TWO-Point Afternoon -- Game 53: Washington Capitals 5 - Los Angeles Kings 0

The Washington Capitals put the “super” into Super Bowl Sunday, scoring early, scoring late, and getting excellent goaltending for 60 minutes as they defeated the Los Angeles Kings, 5-0, on Sunday afternoon at Verizon Center.  Washington gots goal from five different players and points from 11 different skaters in the win, but it was really goalie Philipp Grubauer’s show, stopping 38 shots for his third shutout of the season.

Lars Eller got things going for the Caps in the game’s fourth minute.  Andre Burakovsky rushed the puck up the right side to the Los Angeles line where the puck slid off his stick and down into the corner to the left of goalie Peter Budaj.  Burakovsky pursued it into the corner, pressuring Alec Martinez enough to give it up to Brent Connolly, who managed to slide it to the middle to the waiting Eller.  From the low slot, Eller had time to pull the puck to his forehand and snap it past Budaj’s right pad to make it 1-0 just 3:16 into the game.

Washington doubled their lead late in the period when Evgeny Kuznetsov hustled down the left side with the puck, stopped just inside the Kings’ blue line and fed Marcus Johansson in the middle for a shot that beat Budaj on the blocker side as the goalie was peeking out the other side of a screen his own teammate – Jake Muzzin – set in front of him.  The goal at 18:12 of the period gave the Caps a 2-0 lead going into the first intermission.

The Caps piled it on in the second period with a pair of goals, the first coming early on Brett Connolly’s tenth of the season.  The play started with Karl Alzner poking a loose puck in the neutral zone away from the stick of Brayden McNabb.  It made its way to Tom Wilson, who carried it down the right wing into the Los Angeles zone on a 2-on-1 break.  Wilson feathered the puck into open space for Connolly, who took it in stride, made one move of Budaj to fake him to the ice, and wrapped it around his left pad to make it 3-0 at the 3:43 mark.

Late in the second period, T.J. Oshie made it 4-0.  From the defensive zone, Dmitry Orlov fed the puck up to Alex Ovechkin standing in front of the players’ bench.  Ovechkin bump-passed the puck to Nicklas Backstrom skating toward the Kings’ end.  Backstrom carried the puck into the offensive end, circled around the Los Angeles net, and fed Oshie in the right wing circle for a one-timer that beat Budaj over his left shoulder on the near side, exploding the water bottle resting on the top of the net.  At the  16:24 mark, it was 4-0, Caps.

Justin Williams capped the scoring late in the third period.  Muzzin tried to feed the puck up along the wall in the defensive end, but it made it only as far as Johansson, who knocked it down and fed it into the middle for Williams. Before Muzzin could close the distance to defend, Williams pulled the puck to his backhand and beat relief goalie Jeff Zatkoff on the blocker side to make it 5-0, 16:38 into the period.  All that was left was to preserve the shutout for Grubauer, and the Caps did just that to skate off with the 5-0 win.

Other stuff…

-- Brett Connolly became the ninth player to record ten goals for the Caps this season, the number surpassing last year’s total of eight players to reach double digits in goals.

-- Karl Alzner recorded an assist to reach the ten-point mark for the season, the 18th Capital to reach that mark this season.  Last season, 16 players reached that total.

-- Philipp Grubauer’s third shutout of the season made it nine shutouts for the Caps this season, tying a franchise best for a single season, set in 1995-1996 and tied in 2014-2015.

-- The Caps sure did spread the peanut butter.  Every Capital finished a “plus” player except for Daniel Winnik (even), and every King finished a “minus” player except for Drew Doughty (even).

-- Grubauer’s 38-save shutout ties for the seventh highest total of shots faced by a goaltender in Caps history in recording a shutout.  Brent Johnson holds the record with a 46-save shutout in a 1-0 win over the Ottawa Senators on April 1, 2006.

-- This was the 12th time in team history that the Caps scored five or more goals in a game on 20 or fewer shots (they had 20 in this game).  It happened to be the second time they did it in less than a month, scoring seven goals on 18 shots in a 7-1 win over the St. Louis Blues on January 19th.

-- Marcus Johansson’s goal , his 16th, was just the fifth he scored on home ice this season and the first since December 23rd.

-- The Caps recorded their eighth straight game on home ice scoring five or more goals.  They scored 43 goals on home ice in that span (5.38 per game).

-- Three goaltenders in the NHL have played more than 500 minutes, have a goals against average of less than 2.00, have a save percentage better than .925, and have more than one shutout.  The Caps have two of them – the only team in the league that can say that – in Grubauer and Braden Holtby.  Devan Dubnyk is the other.

-- More Grubi… He loves his home cooking.  Among 53 goalies with at least 250 minutes played on home ice, Grubauer has the best goals against average (0.64), the best save percentage (.977) and is tied for the second highest number of shutouts (three, with three other goalies, behind teammate Braden Holtby, who has five shutouts on home ice).

In the end…

Is there a less hospitable host in the NHL than the Caps?  With this shutout, that makes eight times in 27 games at Verizon Center they denied their guests as much as a single goal.  No other team in the league has more than three shutouts on home ice this season.  Those shutouts have come against eight different teams, four from the East, and now four from the West.  One might try to explain this afternoon’s result as being the product of the Kings having played an overtime game the previous day, three time zones from home.  There might be some merit in that.  But even if one thinks that might have been a factor in this game, the Caps played a game of their own the previous day and had their back-up goaltender playing in this game.  It was a very efficient dismantling of the Kings, a balanced effort.  Having outscored opponents over the last eight games on that ice sheet by a 43-11 margin, other teams can be considered on notice that coming to Verizon Center is not likely to be a pleasant experience.

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