San Jose faced off at the Verizon Center against the Capitals, the first of back-to-back nights worth of games. The Caps have started to get the puck bouncing in their favor recently, but the visiting Sharks were a real good test at home. The Sharks are notorious for getting off to a fast start in the first period, but Washington, not so much. The Caps needed to get off to a good start early in this matchup to keep up with the western conference foe.
Washington started off the first period generating solid scoring chances and more importantly, good puck possession. The Caps then hit a cold streak during the first frame, in which they did not get a shot on net for a large chunk of time. After a defensive miscue in the defensive zone by Dimitri Orlov, Jason Demers fired a slap shot toward the net, that was deflected in past Philipp Grubauer by Tyler Kennedy. The Sharks had eleven shots on goal and Washington had ten at the conclusion of the first period.
The home team got the better of the visiting Sharks in the second frame of action. They added eleven shots on goal during the second and none prettier than Alex Oveckins 33rd goal of the season. Just over seven minutes left into the second, Grabovski was working the cycle and the puck bounced its way to Karl Alzner. Alzner then found Ovechkin ready to shoot from a near impossible angle. It was certainly a goal to add to one of the many on his highlight reel. The two teams were now heading into the third tied up at one.
The majority of the game went smoothly with good, fast paced action and no penalties; that changed at the start of the third. Not even a minute into the third, Backstrom was called for tripping in the offensive zone. The penalty kill did its job in killing the Sharks only power play of the game. The Sharks did not have a lot of zonetime in the offensive end, as the penalty killers did an excellent job clearing the puck out of the zone. The special teams got another opportunity near the end of regulation.
Alex Ovechkin was working down the ice on a break and pulled up to find a streaking Mikhail Grabovski on the other side of the ice. Ovechkin put it on the tape and Grabovski drew a hooking minor. Washington had its opportunities in regulation, but had to head into extra time still on the power play. Niemi and Grubauer both made fantastic saves in overtime to force a shootout.
Fehr, Pavelski and Ovechkin were unsuccessful in the shootout. The second shooter for the Sharks, Patrick Marleau, put on the moves to squeak it past the Caps net minder. Backstrom had a chance to force another shooter, but his attempt was unsuccessful.
You could hear the excitement from the crowd in the Verizon Center throughout the night, as this was a huge game for Washington. They did not get the two points that they had fought for 65+ minutes to get, but coming away with one is not the worst thing either. Niemi was a hot goalie all night and finished the night saving 35 out of 36 shots faced Joe Thornton, the league leader in assists, had zero points in tonight’s match up.
Heading into the big game tonight, it was interesting to see who would be in net. Grubauer seemed like the obvious choice, but it was intriguing to see how he would do against a big time opponent. That one point earned in the standings is mostly due to the stellar play by the young goaltender. He was a game changer, making ridiculous saves to give his team a chance to win. His best save came in over time, where he stonewalled Jason Demers in close range with the blocker. Grubauer now has allowed either two goals or less in eight of his twelve starts. That is a great stat to simplify the job he has done in his rookie season thus far.
Washington, after a long and physical night at home, travel to Pittsburgh to face the Metropolitan division rival Penguins on NBC’s Rivalry Night. It will be interesting to see how the team responds with two extremely difficult match ups on back-to-back nights.