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Caps go wild on Minnesota to snap four-game skid

Caps go wild on Minnesota to snap four-game skid

Final score: Washington Capitals 4, Minnesota Wild 2

How it happened: This one had all the makings of a goalie duel in the first period as Braden Holtby and Devan Dubnyk traded great save after great save. Nate Schmidt broke open the scoring with just 12 seconds left in the first period, however, and the Caps never looked back. Alex Ovechkin snapped his 10-game goal drought in the second period and Evgeny Kuznetsov added goal No. 3 just 2:16 later. Matt Dumba gave the Wild life with his goal less than a minute into the third period. Eric Staal scored four minutes later to pull Minnesota within one, but that would be as close as they would come as Jay Beagle put the exclamation point on the win.

What it means: The win snapped a four-game losing streak, the longest for the Caps since Barry Trotz’s first season in Washington. The Caps remain in first place of the Metropolitan Division with a two-point lead over Pittsburgh and three-point lead over Columbus, both of whom were idle Tuesday.

Goals

Caps goal: Nate Schmidt from Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom at 19:48 in the first period. Backstrom backhanded a pass from behind the net into the slot looking for Ovechkin. Ovechkin missed and the puck went to a waiting Schmidt who fired a quick shot at the net. The shot deflected off a defender past Dubnyk. Caps 1, Wild 0

Caps goal: Alex Ovechkin from John Carlson and Nicklas Backstrom at 14:52 in the second period. Backstrom backhanded a pass to the blue line which Carlson fed over to Ovechkin in the office. Ovechkin fired the shot into the net just after the power play expired. Caps 2, Wild 0

Caps goal: Evgeny Kuznetsov (power play) from John Carlson and Nicklas Backstrom at 17:08 in the second period. Backstrom pulled up just as he entered into the zone which drew the nearest defenseman to him. That allowed Kuznetsov to split  the defense. Backstrom fed him the pass and Kuznetsov had an open lane on Dubnyk. Caps 3, Wild 0

Wild goal: Matt Dumba from Mikael Granlund at 0:37 in the third period. Ovechkin tried to corral a puck in the defensive zone, but accidentally sent to behind the net to Granlund. Granlund fed Dumba in front of the net who had room to deke around and over the outstretched pad of Holtby. Caps 3, Wild 1

Wild goal: Eric Staal (power play) from Mikko Koivu and Ryan Suter at 4:37 in the third period. The Caps killed off the first penalty of a five-on-three power play for the Wild, but as Brett Connolly rushed into the play, Staal buried the rebound of a Zach Parise shot to pull Minnesota within one. Caps 3, Wild 2

Caps goal: Jay Beagle from Dmitry Orlov at 14:19 in the third period. Orlov retrieved the puck at the Caps' blue line on a soft dump-in by Minnesota who was looking for the line change. He fired the puck up to Beagle quickly to start the rush and Beagle snapped a beauty past Dubnyk. Caps 4, Wild 2

3 stars

1. Nicklas Backstrom: Backstrom had a hand in all three of the Caps' goals and each assist was a good one. This was his third three assist game of the season.

2. Braden Holtby: Dubnyk may well win the Vezina Trophy this year, but Holtby was the better netminder on the night. He was unbeatable for the first 40 minutes of the game. In the two goals he allowed, one came off a defensizve zone turnover and the other was at the tail end of a two-man advantage. Everything Holtby could save, he did.

3. Alex Ovechkin: Mired in the worst goal slump of his career, Ovechkin fired a goal from the office in the second period to snap a ten-game drought. It wasn't the best shot, but it was good enough to beat Dubnyk and put the Cpas in complete control of what had been a tight game.

Look ahead: The Caps host the Nashville Predators on Thursday and then head to Tampa Bay to play the wild card hopeful Lightning. They then return to Washington for a three-game home stand.

Tell us what you think: The losing streak is over and the Caps' beat the top team in the west to break it. Are you still concerned or did Tuesday's win allay your fears?

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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: Voice of the Capitals

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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: Voice of the Capitals

Miss hearing the silky smooth sound of John Walton on the radio? Well, have we got a treat for you!

Voice of the Capitals, John Walton joined this week's podcast to show JJ Regan and Tarik El-Bashir how this whole audio thing is done. They discuss the team's offseason moves and what prospects they are most excited to see compete in camp.

RELATED: With short term future secure, Caps' Grubauer eager to get to work

Like what you hear? Be sure to subscribe on Apple podcastsAudioboom and Google Play and give us a good review!

For the latest Caps coverage be sure to follow @CSNCapitals@TarikCSN@JillCSN and @JJReganCSN on Twitter.

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With short-term future secure, Caps' Grubauer eager to get to work

With short-term future secure, Caps' Grubauer eager to get to work

The days leading up to the expansion draft in June were jittery ones for Caps backup goalie Philipp Grubauer, who suspected there was a decent chance he’d get selected by the Golden Knights.

“A little stressful,” Grubauer acknowledged Tuesday following an informal practice at Kettler Capitals Iceplex.

“We were on the phone every day or like every couple of minutes basically.”

Being left somewhat in the dark was an nerve-racking experience, even for someone who makes a living dealing with stressful situations on the ice.

RELATED: RANKING THE CAPITALS MOST IMPORTANT PLAYERS

“Nobody knew what was going on,” he said, referring to his camp’s attempts to figure out which direction Las Vegas GM George McPhee might chose. “We just kinda watched from Germany.”

Grubauer said he learned of his fate—McPhee ended up selecting defenseman Nate Schmidt instead—about a day before the Golden Knights’ picks were revealed during the league’s annual award show.

“Whatever happened, happened,” Grubauer said. “Everybody was a little bit surprised. But I’m glad I got to stay here in Washington another year.”

A couple of weeks later, Grubauer, who entered the offseason as a restricted free agent with arbitration rights, agreed to a one-year, $1.5 million contract extension with Washington.

With the start of training camp still a month away, Grubauer said he decided to join the Caps’ informal skates a few weeks earlier than usual to take advantage of the team’s facility and staff and ensure that he’s as sharp as possible when camp begins. The almost daily 70-minute sessions are run by strength and conditioning coach Mark Nemish and they’ve started to ramp up in recent days as more players trickle back into town.

“We wanted to come back little bit earlier, practice here and train here with Nemo,” Grubauer said. “The facility provides us with a great, great opportunity to get ready for training camp. And there were a couple of guys are here so I wanted to come back a little bit earlier than usual to prepare myself.”

RELATED: 2017-18 CAPITALS SEASON PREVIEW

When camp begins, the Caps’ goaltending tandem will remain unchanged—Braden Holtby will be the starter and Grubauer will be the backup—but there will be a handful of new faces in the locker room. Karl Alzner, Justin Williams, Marcus Johansson, Daniel Winnik and Kevin Shattenkirk have moved on and will be replaced by younger, less experienced players as the Caps squeeze a more top-heavy roster underneath the salary cap.

Grubauer echoed John Carlson’s recent comments on this summer’s roster retooling, saying he hopes the infusion of new blood might be a good thing for a Caps’ team that saw little change the previous two years.

“We’re going to be a little younger than last year,” Grubauer said. “If you go through the league, like Toronto is a little bit younger, Edmonton is a little bit younger, so I think that’s where the trend is going. I think that could really be our advantage—some new blood, some new energy.”

As far as Grubauer’s personal goals for the upcoming season, the 25-year-old aims to pick up where he left off last season. In fact, it could be argued that he was the league’s best No. 2. Among goalies who played in at least 20 games, Grubauer had the second best goals against average (2.04) and was tied for the fourth best save percentage (.926).     

“Just be patient, work really hard and be successful out there, be ready to go every time,” Grubauer said, asked how he intends to approach another season as Holtby's backup. “I want to be ready to follow where I left off last year, keep improving and working hard, get better every day and we’ll see what will happen.”