The Washington Capitals aren’t going to blow every team out of the water nor will they have their starting goaltender, Braden Holtby, in net every night. That was the case on Tuesday night when the Caps, led by backup goalie Philipp Grubauer, defeated the Los Angeles Kings 3-1 at home in the Verizon Center. The win hikes Washington’s record to 41-10-4, which is still the best record in the NHL.
Grubauer was fantastic in net for the Caps, stopping a season-high 39 shots, allowing just one goal in the first period. He got the start after playing the third period Saturday night in a 4-3 loss to the Dallas Stars in relief of starter, Holtby, who didn’t have his best performance of the season. Holtby allowed all four Dallas goals before being pulled at the start of the third period. That was his first loss in regulation since January 16. He has struggled as of late, allowing 10 goals in his last three games. However, Grubauer stepped in and filled the void.
Three different forwards handled he scoring responsibilities on Tuesday night. Andre Burakovsky knotted the game at 1-1 with his 12th goal of the season with 49 seconds to play in the second period. The Kings struck first on a short-handed goal scored by Anze Kopitar after a great defensive play by Drew Doughty. The Caps and Kings did battle for the entire third period before Evgeny Kuznetsov lit the lamp for his 16th goal of the season and the game-winning goal with 2:02 left to play in regulation. Jason Chimera added an empty net goal to put the icing on the cake, his 16th goal of the season.
Kuznetsov found the back of the net for the first time since January 14, yet still leads the team in points with 57. To put it into a little more perspective, Alex Ovechkin – who was held scoreless Tuesday night on 10 shot attempts – has 49 points on the season, but leads the NHL in goals at 35. Kuznetsov might not score at the rate Ovechkin does, but he makes plays and racks up points, mostly in assists. He is the heir apparent to Ovechkin and head coach Barry Trotz will gladly have the duo paired up on the ice.
The game between the Capitals and Kings is potentially a Stanley Cup preview, but it is so hard to pick a clear-cut favorite in the Western Conference. The win comes after a 4-3 loss to another potential Stanley Cup preview against the Dallas Stars on Saturday. The Caps have not lost back-to-back all season long, which is a good sign heading towards the playoffs.
Washington will travel to face the Islanders on Thursday night before returning back to the Verizon center for a four-game home stand against the New Jersey Devils, Arizona Coyotes, Montreal Canadians and Minnesota Wild starting Saturday. The month will culminate with yet another potential Stanley Cup preview as the Caps will head to Chicago for a matchup with the Blackhawks, a 12:30 affair on NBC.